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Universal Service Oh... forget the Obligation. BT offers to stump up £600m for 10Mbps

No need for regulation, right guys?

By Kat Hall, 31 Jul 2017

BT has offered to stump up £600m to provide ubiquitous minimum broadband speeds of 10Mbps by 2022.

If the proposal is accepted, it will render the government's plans for a legal universal service obligation, allowing customers to demand speeds of 10Mbps, redundant.

Under the plans, BT would provide 10Mpbs to 99 per cent of the population by 2020 and universal coverage by 2022. Currently, 1.4 million people cannot get 10Mpbs.

However, a cross-Parliamentary report led by MP Grant Shapp, recently claimed as many 6.7m Brits suffer sub-10Mbps broadband speeds - although that figure has been disputed.

Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said the government "warmly welcomes" BT’s offer and "will look at whether this or a regulatory approach works better for homes and businesses."

She said: "Whichever of the two approaches we go with in the end, the driving force behind our decision making will be making sure we get the best deal for consumers."

Former digital minister Ed Vaizey last year told The Register, that Openreach is the internet provider best placed to deliver the government's plan for the USO.

Ofcom head Sharon White had previously said that BT was the only player to offer its services for a USO, but criticised the provider for having previously placed a number of conditions on doing so.

In March BT finally agreed to a legal separation of Openreach after Ofcom had found that Openreach had an incentive to favour BT retail over and above other competitors in the market.

Commenting on the USO proposal, BT chief exec Gavin Patterson said: "We are pleased to make a voluntary offer to deliver the Government’s goal for universal broadband access at minimum speeds of 10Mbps.

"This would involve an estimated investment of £450m - £600m depending on the final technology solution."

The government said it will work with BT over the coming months to develop the proposal - which, if it is accepted, will be legally binding. ®

The Register - Independent news and views for the tech community. Part of Situation Publishing