back to article UK.gov finally promises legally binding broadband service obligation – by 2020

It has been three years since countryside lobbyists demanded a legally binding promise from the UK government on broadband speeds – but the wheels are only now starting to turn. On Saturday, Prime Minister David Cameron pledged that everyone across Blighty should be given a legal right to request a 10Mbit/s broadband …

  1. Timmy B Silver badge
    Facepalm

    So food, heat, housing, etc. aren't rights but broadband is. Dimwit.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It strikes me that this is a concession thrown to the sort of person that moves out to the sticks and is surprised that there are fewer amenities. It's probably quite easy for Tories to keep hold of small constituencies.

      1. The Wegie

        Most rural constituencies are larger -- both in area covered, and size of the electorate -- than urban constituencies. It's one reason why the planned reduction in size of the House of Commons down to 600 MPs will hit Labour much harder than the Tories, as most of the seats that will go will be relatively small urban ones, that are overwhelmingly Labour-held.

        They do, however, pretty much weigh the Tory vote out here in the sticks. The sitting MP here has a majority bigger than the votes cast for all the other candidates combined.

        1. A K Stiles
          Devil

          An actual majority?

          Wow - so you have an MP who is actually backed by a true majority of the constituents who managed/were able to vote? Rather than so many other places where the sitting MP only holds maybe as high as 30% of the public vote...

          I'd be even more impressed if the powers that be would stop messing with the voting boundaries in order to manipulate the constituencies to better suit their own brand of lies party politics

  2. TheManCalledStan
    Meh

    A zero cost to government promise... by 2020 BTs ~10Mbps to final 5% promise will be in place... which reading between the lines means that UKgov has decided that a forced demerger of Openreach is not on the cards... otherwise it wouldn't happen due to BT putting everything on hold with the whole thing in court for X years and very little at all happening.

  3. S4qFBxkFFg

    What use is a "right to request"?

    ...if an ISP or whoever deals with the physical links can just say "no"?

    1. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: What use is a "right to request"?

      BT, or Kingston Communications if you live in Hull, will be obliged to say yes.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: What use is a "right to request"?

        "BT, or Kingston Communications if you live in Hull, will be obliged to say yes."

        That's true, a USO will force them to say yes. But they won't be forced to supply it at a specified price if they can show it would be inordinately expensive. There are always economic loopholes in USO obligations. That's why there are rural communities with no mains gas, or with cess pits.

        1. PrivateCitizen

          Re: What use is a "right to request"?

          That's why there are rural communities with no mains gas, or with cess pits.

          In my case it is no mains gas, septic tank waste disposal but close enough to the big lights to get 40mpbs broadband dirt cheap.

          The problem is exactly as you have described - the obligation to supply may be there but the service providers just set a rate that keeps it out of reach.

      2. smudge Silver badge

        Re: What use is a "right to request"?

        BT, or Kingston Communications if you live in Hull, will be obliged to say yes.

        I wonder about that. I'm on the edge of St Albans - not in the sticks - and my BT line delivers me 3Mbps in summer, dropping to 2Mbps in the winter. An Openreach engineer has said "That's pretty good for round here!".

        But NTL cabled up the street years ago, and every week I receive an offer from the bearded one to buy his services.

        So would the gummint say that I already have the possibility of >10Mbps internet, but that I am choosing not to take it up? Or are they really going to force the monopoly operator (BT/Kingston Comms) to upgrade?

  4. Gert Leboski

    Whoopie-doo

    10 Mbps by 2020?

    In 2020, 10 Mbps will be equivalent to today's 512 Kbps. Usual load of hot air Cameron's trotting out there.

    Swines!

  5. Smooth Newt
    WTF?

    What's with the "ambition"?

    the government's "ambition" to gift British taxpayers across the land with a legal right to request broadband speeds of 10Mbps.

    Why don't they just do it. It doesn't give anyone anything, except perhaps a cute sound bite.

    Me: Dear ISP I would like to formally request a broadband speed of 10 Mbps.

    ISP: Get lost.

    Uk.Gov: Another happy voter! He used his legal right to request 10 Mbps and since it was only a request and not an obligation on the ISP, they said no.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: What's with the "ambition"?

      Why don't they just do it. It doesn't give anyone anything, except perhaps a cute sound bite.

      Me: Dear ISP I would like to formally request a broadband speed of 10 Mbps.

      ISP: Get lost.

      Actually it's a bit more complicated than that. The conversation would be:

      You: Dear ISP I would like to formally request a broadband speed of 10 Mbps.

      ISP (to you): We'd love to, let me check with our suppliers.

      ISP (to BTw): Got a customer here in Little Ducks Bottom End wants a 10Mb/s service.

      BTw (to ISP): Sure, we'll get our suppliers on to it.

      BTor: Little What? Oh. Er. Well, at least they are on the road network. Sorta. Um.

      BTw (to ISP, somewhat cautiously): Ye-es, we can do it.

      ISP (to BTw): Is there a problem? I mean we've got their request in writing and everything.

      BTw: Ah..well..it's not going to be easy. Cheap. I mean, it's not going to be cheap.

      ISP (to BTw): Er...

      BTw: Oh don't worry.

      ISP (to BTw): Phew.

      BTW: Yeah our supplier can bill the customer direct. It's standard operating procedures when there are excess construction costs.

      ISP (to you): Cool, it's a go. Our suppliers say they just need to confirm a few things with you but otherwise we're great. By the way we've taken the first month's payment.

      Time passes...

      BTor (to you. In writing):Dear sir/madam/thing, Please find enclosed our bill for excess construction charges in respect of your request for a high speed data connection to your premises.

      You: <obscenity redacted>

      You (to ISP): But you said...

      ISP (to you): Ah you'll have to take that up with our suppliers as we're not responsible and aren't doing the work nor charging you.

      You: Oh :-/

      1. Smooth Newt

        Re: What's with the "ambition"?

        ISP (to you): Cool, it's a go. Our suppliers say they just need to confirm a few things with you but otherwise we're great. By the way we've taken the first month's payment.

        You are right. It's me who would have to tell them to get lost.

        Me: Dear ISP I would like to formally request a broadband speed of 10 Mbps.

        ISP: Sure. That will be £45,000 to lay the fibre.

        Me: Get lost. I'll just have to live with the damp string connection I've got.

        Uk.Gov: Another happy voter! He used his legal right to request 10 Mbps etc.

  6. auburnman

    'legal right to request'

    I have the 'legal right to request' a 10Mbps connection right now, I fail to see what this weasel worded bollocks will do for anyone:

    Other things I currently have the 'legal right to request':

    A million pounds

    Sex with Jennifer Lawrence

    A Prime Minister that hasn't had his dick in a pig

    1. Robin

      Re: 'legal right to request'

      Are those already ordered by possibility-of-happening?

  7. Dr Paul Taylor

    Urban areas too?

    Rural areas are to be promised 10 M bits/sec.

    What about urban areas, like my house in east London?

    I get 4 M bits/sec.

    1. boltar Silver badge

      Re: Urban areas too?

      "What about urban areas, like my house in east London?

      I get 4 M bits/sec."

      Well it is east london - the other 6 mbs has probably been nicked. Looked for some shady looking characters in black hats hanging around.

      1. nematoad Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Urban areas too?

        "I get 4 M bits/sec."

        Lucky you. I feel as if I had hit the jackpot if I can get 256Kb/s.

        This bumpkin won't be holding his breath. As others have said this is just an "ambition" and look how good this government is at killing those off.

    2. Daleos

      Re: Urban areas too?

      10Mb is about all I could get in Shoreditch (apparently 'Tech City' and the epicentre of online businesses in the UK) before I gave up waiting for BT Infinity and went to Virgin. I feel dirty for doing it but BT are so hopeless it was the only option. If 10MB is all I can get in Shoreditch through BT I shudder to think what the rest of the country has to put up with.

  8. Your alien overlord - fear me

    10 Meg is the minimum requirement for GCHQ to download your emails,browser history,webcam images etc. direct from your computer (as will be the legal requirement by 2020).

  9. John Sager

    Still waiting in our village

    Although our county (Suffolk) struck a deal with BT to supply 'Rural Broadband', colour me surprised when BT promptly upgraded the rest of the cabinets in the local towns & big villages that had previously been deemed to have 'no business case for upgrade'. Of course, it's not a picnic for them to add the extra infrastructure to make sure all lines in the sticks are <1km from a FTTC cabinet, but wasn't that what the taxpayers' shilling via BDUK was for?

    1. TheManCalledStan

      Re: Still waiting in our village

      Unfortunately, it wasn't the deal... the deal BDUK came up with was for the next affordable ~25%, leaving anywhere between 5-10% with no improvement... politicians then casually substituted the next ~25% for "rural" in all their soundbites and made people like yourself think that it would be a project directed specifically at rural areas. Despite corrections from BDUK, pokliticians carried on with the rural theme and getting the percentages wrong creating even more disappointment...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Still waiting in our village

      No, I think the money was to be used to give the greatest number of unserved homes possible the option of faster broadband. The way to do that, I presume, is to concentrate on the areas that are still relatively densely populated but with a business case that doesn't stack up.

      The money was used to subsidise the installation costs as I understand it, in the areas that couldn't make a commercial return without assistance. I guess that's important for two reasons - firstly that no commercial enterprise is going to invest in building out kit it can never make a return on, and secondly that if BT had done that it probably would fall foul of the Competition Act - a player with significant market power selling services below cost is exactly the kind of behaviour the act is intended to address.

  10. 8Ace

    The real agenda ?

    Can't help but be suspicious of the drive to get everyone online. You'd almost think that the govt has something to gain if we do all our communications down one pipe, but hey governments can be trusted .. right ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The real agenda ?

      It's unlikely though. Most voice calls take place on mobile phones these days and most new households that form don't take any kind of fixed line telecoms - for voice or broadband. Young people moving into their first homes these days tend to rely solely on mobile devices.

      This report from Ofcom is quite old now but the trends have continued;

      http://www.ofcom.org.uk/static/cmr-10/UKCM-5.63.html

  11. AndrueC Silver badge
    Meh

    Being in the USO could make a difference. It is actually a lot more than just 'you are allowed to ask'. It does actually require BT to provide the service on demand. If they can't or won't they are in violation of their operating license I believe.

    However there is a caveat. The caveat is that BT are allowed to charge you for what they call 'excess construction costs' and at present this is all but the first £3,400 of the installation.

    So the change is:

    At present: BT can flat out refuse.

    If this gets passed into law: BT have to provide the service but if it costs more than £3,400 to install it you will have to pay the excess.

    What I and others suspect is that the customer making such a request will be fobbed off with a satellite solution. Poor sods.

  12. phil dude
    IT Angle

    am I the first?

    I read the headline and thought "past the next election", who cares...

    Check the Icon. This is the politics of soundbites. The technology has already been invented.

    Post-scarcity bandwidth is at least a realisable goal...:;-)

    P.

  13. Disgruntled of TW
    FAIL

    Copper cruft ... we need FTTP

    Boring.

    Only FTTP will catch us up with the APAC countries rolling out fibre. Anything else is folly. Peter Cochrane (ex. BT CTO) told our government this repeatedly before leaving BT, and they ignore all similar advice from "experts", preferring to fill BTs coffers and support dead end copper connectivity.

    Scrap HS2, and replace it with a FTTP project the length and breadth of the UK. Done.

    1. Peter 26

      Re: Copper cruft ... we need FTTP

      Once they do that, there's very little left to upgrade and no money to be made. BT would rather drag it out, bit by bit, upgrade after upgrade.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Copper cruft ... we need FTTP

      Isn't that a little simplistic? Is our economy demonstrably weaker than those APAC countries?

      If FTTP was universally considered a great thing there would be companies fighting over each other to install it. After all, a new company would have a lower cost base than BT, no legacy network to maintain and none of the pension liabilities. Virgin must have a lower cost base than BT but with similar efficiencies of scale and their expansion ambitions extend only to infilling already covered areas.

      That there isn't a rush to private rollout is telling. It shows me that the financial case for doing it doesn't stack up. Any adoption of new tech requires the financial case to be as strong as the technical one. That's why I'm not typing this on a Commodore Amiga, while listening to some music on a DAT tape while my Betamax recorder is taping something from On Digital for me. It's probably also why I'm using a packet switched IP connection to type this comment instead of using a B-ISDN / ATM channel. Low cost wins and tech can only be rolled out if you don't go bust doing it.

      If private enterprise can't make it work then it requires government intervention. For that to happen it would need to be proved than the cost of doing this (I've seen an average of £2k per premise quoted, 26M UK households, probably half as many again non-residential premises, call it 40M, so £80Bn) is more urgent and important than existing government spend. £80Bn is about the same as the annual NHS budget and a little bit more than we spend on the state pension. Doing that would require some significant adjustment of priorities and you'd have to bear in mind that the people whose state spend is deprioritised have the vote and so any grand plan will last only as long as the voters approve of it.

      Last point - where fast broadband is widely available from Virgin and BT, takeup is less than 20% according to Ofcom. Given the choice of basic broadband at £x and faster broadband at £x+5, the great majority of people opt for basic. What goverment will spend £80Bn equipping the entire nation, every home, every commercial premise, every public building, with a service that only 1 in 5 people want?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    Definition

    Sure, you can all have 10Mb/s

    ...

    Small print:

    1000:1 contention ratio, max. speeds are variable depending on distance from exchange (In BT tower, LDN), allowing for interference from electrical equipment and metrological events. Subject to fair usage policy, "unlimited" refers to 1GB/month maximum upload/download, service charged per unique user and unique MAC address, ISP overheads (web-cam user monitoring, meta-data recording, marketing intelligence, pre-download recommended videos and compulsory ISP push advertising service) are included within the above totals.

    Payment must be through an agreed financing deal (at an amazing 2% per day!) and shall include you and any direct or indirect forbears.

  15. Commswonk Silver badge

    Oh yeah?

    From the article, quoting David Cameron "Just as our forebears effectively brought gas, electricity and water to all

    It may come as a surprise to him but to the best of my knowledge there are large parts of the country that don't have gas supplies, at least not via a convenient pipe that comes out of the ground.

    Politicians should be kept away from anything even vaguely technical, because they can be relied upon to get it wrong. Whether technical people should be kept away from politics is not yet clear; I suspect that most of us give it a wide berth out of choice.

    I'm not entirely certain that people who choose to live in the "back of beyond" should be able to expect the same standard of service (in whatever the subject is) as those who live in or close to a "population centre". Do they expect major hospitals to be built within (say) 5 miles of every hamlet in creation?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh yeah?

      I'm not entirely certain that people who choose to live in the "back of beyond" should be able to expect the same standard of service (in whatever the subject is) as those who live in or close to a "population centre".

      What a very parochial outlook you have. Not to say small-minded or petty.

      "I'm not entirely certain that people who choose to live in the middle of a city should be able to expect the same standard of fresh air or personal space as those who live in the country..."

      1. Commswonk Silver badge

        Re: Oh yeah?

        AC wrote: What a very parochial outlook you have. Not to say small-minded or petty.

        No I don't think it is; simply realistic.

        Then "I'm not entirely certain that people who choose to live in the middle of a city should be able to expect the same standard of fresh air or personal space as those who live in the country..."

        Has anyone tried to argue that? I suspect that much as they might want "the same standard of fresh air or personal space" they are realistic enough to understand that it isn't going to happen.

        Look at it another way; how much more are urban dwellers willing to pay so that those in remote locations can have BB at the same price as they do? Not much if any at all, I suspect. As in so much in life once one choice has been made, others become unavailable. Or do you believe that you really can have it all?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Oh yeah?

          "Look at it another way; how much more are urban dwellers willing to pay so that those in remote locations can have BB at the same price as they do? "

          The last ten percent of any network coverage will cost about the same as the first ninety. Ubiquity is expensive. If a Universal Service model was adopted, those city folk are going to see their bills double in order that rural folk get their hands on the megabits.

          There will also have to be some mechanism to include Virgin in that sharing of costs if that Universal Service model happens. If not, the city dwellers save money and move to Virgin and then there's no-one left in cities subsidising the rural folk's connections and the price remains unaffordable.

          1. Timmy B Silver badge

            Re: Oh yeah?

            Perhaps the city folks should pay fair price for their food and milk and then the farmers, etc. would have enough to pay extra for faster bb.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh yeah?

      ONS reports that gas from a pipe coverage for the UK is 90%, so 10% have to make do with other means

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. Timmy B Silver badge

      Re: Oh yeah?

      Do you realise there isn't really a "back of beyond"? Nowhere in the country is more than 14 miles away from a main road - not some country track, but a main road - and that includes places where nobody lives at all. And where do you think your food comes from? It's made by the people that live in this "back of beyond" - these people provide for your needs so yes, they should expect the same level of service.

      Ever heard of an air ambulance?

  16. Wolfclaw Silver badge

    10Mbit/s is not enough, should be 25Mbit/s downstream and 10Mbit/s upstream as a minimum and any company failing to provide this constantly, should be hit with big fines.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Thank you for your well-thought out and reasoned comment.

      I do have a couple of questions though.

      Do you mean any company at all? For instance, the Ford motor company have never delivered me any kind of broadband service. Should they be fined?

      What if the cost of the fine is lower than the cost of provision? Wouldn't any sensible company pay the fine instead of paying vast sums to install unprofitable network?

      Wouldn't your approach simply result in telcos and ISPs declining to serve any customer in rural areas and so make provision of broadband to people with wellies rather worse than it is today?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Antagonistic Reporting?

    3/10 on this , we bumpkin's provide you townies with food.

    respect please ms fiveash.

    1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Antagonistic Reporting?

      lol bumpkin

  18. Adrian 4 Silver badge
    FAIL

    same old same old

    Is that like the NHS guarantee of an appointment 18 weeks from referral ? And over a year for treatment ? (aka we hope you die before we have to spend your taxes)

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There are companies installing fibre-to-the-business and fibre-to-the-tower-block networks in various parts of the country, although most of these are still at the is-this-economically-viable stage.

    The good news is that the first large scale fibre-to-the-home trial is being done with Talk Talk as the partnering ISP, so no worries there.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What are the chances of those businesses going anywhere outside a city? Pretty slim I'd have thought and so completely irrelevant to this debate.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      according to Thinkbroadband.com one company has a FTTP network that is double the size of all the others put together http://www.thinkbroadband.com/factsheet/broadband-factsheet-q1-2014.pdf

      And guess what its Openreach

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Maybe, but the network being trialled is 1GB 'dedicated', up & down.

  20. napalmDaz
    Thumb Down

    Top down

    I managed to get FTTP in a rural new build where the ADSL was 1.5 Mbps and sometimes 64Kbps upload depending on whether the guy next door was power washing his car. The GPON is quite contended in the evening but I guess it's a future proof upgrade path over the agro I had with FTTC with REIN in the last house.

    BT front line support are useless. You need to email the guys at the top to get things moving and then you realise how disconnected the internals of the BT giant are over if you go bottom up.

    With things like 4K and IPTV becoming common, I guess we should be aiming for at least 40Mbps by 2020. That's a guaranteed 40, at peak times. Also, there needs to be legislation with regard to upload. BT were sneaky and were offering Infinity 4 with a 30Mbps upload easier in the year (hidden in the more info hover bubbles on the site). They silently dropped this down to 20Mbps and kept the same price.

    Hopefully more cabinets will continue to pop up bringing VDSL2 / G.Fast to more people. Is wireless access an option for fulfilment like Boundless Communications in Preston? I can imagine that being used for the last few percent.

  21. peter 45

    Yeh right

    So i will have the right to request broadband eh.

    My local exchange is fibre enabled so i requested a better link to my house than the 1Mb I get now (when is hasn't been raining heavily, when I get nothing). I got quoted £30k to lay a new cable.

    Tell me how this announcement is going to be any different

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Morons

    Ignoring the fact that some things are w-a-y more important than Internet e.g. access to health, affordable housing etc, this policy of fiddling whilst Rome burns is missing one vital aspects. Up speed.

    Most broadband in the UK has simply appalling up speed and this is detrimental to users as well as stifling innovation. ISPs should be compelled to provide at up speed that is at last 25% of the down (if not 50%).

    This would allow user to host their own services (if they want) and hack away at other home-brew innovations (if they want).

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Morons

      Most users don't need higher upstream throughput and for those that do, symmetric products are available.

      Your rule would just see ISPs artificially limit downstream speed to comply, worsening broadband for everyone.

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