No, The Government Isn’t Abandoning ‘Automatic’ 10Mbps Rural Broadband Rollout

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ANALYSIS: Say what you like about government broadband schemes, but in this particular instance, it hasn’t broken any promises

A report in The Telegraph has accused the government of “abandoning” the final five percent of properties in the UK not covered by the state-sponsored rollout of superfast broadband on the basis of cost. But it hasn’t.

The newspaper claims to have seen “Whitehall documents” that state “it is unlikely that everyone will want to be connected” and that anyone who wants to receive the proposed universal service obligation (USO) of 10Mbps will have to demand to be connected.

Well, yes. Plans for a 10Mbps USO were touted last November and the consultation itself started in March. At all times, it was never claimed the rollout would be “automatic.”

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Rural broadband

windmill suffolk country rural © Douglas Freer shutterstockIt appears as though the “Whitehall documents” might just be the ongoing consultation into the USO rather than the government reneging on earlier commitments.

Whether true or not, DCMS has always cited the difficulty of connecting the final five percent of homes and business to superfast broadband and that’s why it is ensuring every property can receive at least 2Mbps, and eventually 10Mbps if they requested it.

DCMS believes it’s true that not “everyone” will want a faster connection and that’s why initiatives such as the satellite broadband voucher scheme and the USO will be “demand led” rather than “supply led” like the early phases of Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK). DCMS believes this will save money too, but has never attempted to hide this.

“It’s absolute nonsense to suggest we’re leaving rural areas behind in our rollout of broadband,” the Departure for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) told TechWeekEurope. “Our current plans will reach at least 95 per cent of the UK, but we want everyone to have fast broadband so we are introducing a Universal Service Obligation to help make sure no one is left behind.”

Critics of the government’s broadband and mobile coverage plans are numerous, especially when it comes to rural areas, but at least in this specific case, it can’t be accused of going back on its word.

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