broadband End User

Broadband for all – our rights to access utilities

PM promises broadband for all

It is fitting considering it is Lincolnshire broadband week on this blog that last weekend Prime Minister David Cameron announced that broadband should be considered an utility and that everybody should be able to request it. He said:

“Just as our forebears effectively brought gas, electricity and water to all, we’re going to bring fast broadband to every home and business that wants it.” Good.

The digital minister Ed Vaizey gave further detail, explaining that the plan was to bring in a universal service obligation of 10Mbps for “the very hardest to reach homes and businesses.”

This is a very difficult issue to get your brain around. In the first instance whilst 10Mbps may be a huge step forward compared to what some people in rural areas might be getting today it will still be way behind what most of the rest of us can already receive.  By the time it has been implemented 10Mbps will be seen to be pretty slow. Maybe that doesn’t matter.

If it is perceived that water, electricity and gas are a right, and I’m not sure that is the case – I can’t believe every rural dwelling is plumbed in for these services – I don’t think people are offered partial services for these utilities. eg you can only have some of the electricity you need not all of it.

Why shouldn’t rural people get the same broadband services as their cousins who moved into town?

It will also be interesting to see how this is paid for. I don’t think it would be reasonable to expect BT to have to foot the bill and my experience in working with Nottinghamshire County Council on their BDUK programme suggests that the whole subject of government subsidies is hugely complex. There are massive rolls of red tape indiscriminately (my words) applied to any project that may be perceived to have subsidies involved. I may be wrong.

Our politicians are often criticised for not understanding issues, especially those pertaining to technology and the internet. We must accept that some of these issues are difficult to grasp, especially in times where we are trying to save money not spend it.

We are promised a consultation period in 2016 on how to achieve the promises made by the Prime Minister over the weekend. I say ok but at the same time we should be actively looking to see how UK plc gets the universal fibre to the premises that must be the long term goal.

Other posts in Lincolnshire broadband week:

Philip Little of Bluecube Move to the cloud accelerated by superfast broadband

Intro to day 4 by Tref

Broadband for all by Tref

Could we have a B4RN in Lincolnshire (B4RL)

Gigaclear Ultrafast broadband in Lincolnshire by CEO Matthew Hare

BT fibrebroadband Managing Director Bill Murphy discusses superfast broadband progress in Lincolnshire

Lincolnshire broadband programme update by Steve Brookes


Trefor Davies

By Trefor Davies

Liver of life, father of four, CTO of, writer, poet,

3 replies on “Broadband for all – our rights to access utilities”

Another great blog post Tref. It’s a pity that we will have to wait for yet another consultation period which will add a further delay before any changes can be implemented. I wonder which form of consultation will be chosen. A survey, possibly? Who exactly is going to be consulted? Internet providers, local authority decision makers and the general public too? Whichever form of consultation, there will be costs involved but let’s hope that people across the nation, especially those in all of the remote and rural areas of the UK, will be given the opportunity to express their views, at no cost to themselves.

Unfortunately, even though we are midway through the second decade of the 21st century, not everyone understands the importance of affordable, abundant bandwidth and why it should be available to all. Deploying next generation broadband networks to the furthest corners of the land should not be delayed for much longer, as these will be needed for communities to survive and thrive in the decades ahead, especially the smallest communities.

Now is the time to begin thinking about even faster speeds, more competition and improved service. Cameron is right when he says “Access to the internet shouldn’t be a luxury; it should be a right – absolutely fundamental to life in 21st-century Britain.” But, shouldn’t he now be giving us the right to a high-speed internet connection, wherever we are in the UK? There is no doubt that our work and personal lives are already affected by the speed and quality of our broadband networks. Those who are already getting the fastest speeds and have ample bandwidth are gaining many advantages over those with the slowest speeds and limited bandwidth.

How can the government justify leaving so many of us behind? Other countries are moving toward Gigabit connectivity, why aren’t we? How can the introduction of a USO of 10Mbps really help us? How many people in the rural areas of the UK will find themselves stuck with the minimum speed for decades to come, with no chance of upgrading to whatever options are then being delivered to folk in the cities?

How long will we have to wait before the government can be persuaded to upgrade the USO again, and why can’t the government make it easier for there to be competition to build new future-proof pure-fibre solutions in the UK? I really hope that Cameron is taking note of the progress that is being made by B4RN, the community-owned Gigabit fibre broadband network provider in the Rural North. Their Fibre-To-The-Home network is being rolled-out to an increasing number of rural communities. They must be laughing at Cameron’s 10 Mbps USO right now…

I have no mains gas, though the HP pipeline is only 600m away. Currently oil is a bit cheaper so I’m not complaining though. Lots of people don’t have gas. Many don’t have mains sewage (including me, but I made that choice when it arrived a few years ago) and a few don’t have mains water or electricity. If you’re out in the sticks you may get some “interesting” voltages and lots of outages on power via overhead lines, which is analogous to poor broadband speeds.

It’s an interesting social policy question rather than a technical one, should literally everyone that wants it have a 10 Mbits/s connection, at what cost, and who pays.

If it’s a “legal right” who do we sue if we can’t get it ?

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