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Councils call on government to enshrine minimum broadband speed in law

The government’s commitment to supplying fast broadband across the country must be upheld, the LGA has said.

The government under David Cameron pledged to create a universal service obligation (USO), giving everybody the legal right to request a broadband connection capable of delivering a minimum download speed of 10Mbps by 2020.

However, the LGA urged the new government under Theresa May to ensure that the commitment is not forgotten.

Cllr Mark Hawthorne, chair of the LGA's people and places board, said: “Good digital connectivity is a vital element of everyday life for residents and can help them cut household bills, shop online for cheaper goods, stay in touch with distant relatives, file tax returns and access their bank accounts. As central and local government services increasingly become ‘digital by default', more people will need to have faster and more reliable speeds.

“It is paramount that the government maintains momentum and presses ahead with plans to enshrine the USO in law. We hope that the recent changes in government do not delay work on the USO and call on ministers to reaffirm their commitment to it.”

The LGA said a new commitment from the government was particularly important because the Digital Economy Bill and the Digital Strategy are facing delays.

Ofcom also announced yesterday that it will keep the Openreach broadband programme under the control of BT, despite the company being criticised for introducing the broadband technology in a ‘patchwork’ manner.

Cllr Hawthorne also said that the 10Mbps speed – which is theoretically enough for different members of a family to watch a high-definition film and a catch-up TV programme and make a video call at the same time – should be “just the start” and allow faster speeds to be introduced.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has estimated that up to 1 million households could still be unable to access 10Mbps broadband by 2020.

Up to 100,000 of those will be in rural areas, where speeds frequently fall below 2Mbps in busy periods.

Councils have provided £740m of the £1.7bn invested in the Superfast Broadband Programme, and many councils are aiming to improve on the official target of 95% broadband coverage of premises by December 2017.

(Image c. BDUK)

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