Countdown to the new broadband safety net

06 June 2019

Everyone in the UK will have the right to request a decent and affordable broadband connection from March next year.

Ofcom is implementing the UK Government’s ‘universal broadband service’. This will give eligible homes and businesses the right to request a decent broadband connection. This is a connection capable of delivering download speeds of at least 10 Mbit/s and upload speeds of at least 1 Mbit/s. These speeds will be reviewed over time, as the amount of data people use changes.

Although the vast majority (95%) of homes and small businesses in the UK can get superfast broadband, and more than half can get ultrafast broadband, too many people still struggle to get the connections they need.

As of today, 620,000 homes and offices, or 2%, would benefit from the new scheme, although this number is decreasing as broadband networks are upgraded. These homes are among the most remote in the UK, or are far away from current broadband networks, which means they currently struggle to get a decent broadband service.

BT and KCOM will deliver the service

We have decided that BT and KCOM are best placed to meet the challenges of providing universal service connections. So BT will be responsible for connecting properties in the whole of the UK except the Hull area, where KCOM will be the designated provider.

We have given BT and KCOM until 20 March next year to make the necessary preparations, including changes to their systems and processes, to start building these connections. From that date, people can start making requests.

How the scheme will work

When someone makes a request, BT or KCOM will have 30 days to confirm whether the customer is eligible. This will involve establishing whether the property already has access to decent broadband, at an affordable price, or if it is due to be connected by a publicly-funded scheme within 12 months.

Once confirmed, BT or KCOM must put the connection in place as quickly as possible.

Under the legislation for the new service, the cost of providing connections to eligible homes will be paid for up to £3,400.

If the required work costs more than that, customers can either pay the additional costs or seek an alternative solution outside the universal service, such as satellite broadband. Alternatively, they can join with other people in their area to make a joint request, which can dramatically reduce the cost of connecting each property.

Customers who are connected through the new universal service will pay the same prices and receive the same service quality as other broadband customers who have an equivalent connection.

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director, said: “As more of our daily lives move online, bringing better broadband to people and businesses is crucial. From next year, this new broadband safety net will give everyone a legal right to request a decent connection – whether you live in a city or a hamlet. This will be vital for people who are struggling to get the broadband they need.”

Better broadband and mobile - wherever you are

Overseeing the universal broadband service is part of Ofcom’s work to help everyone in the UK benefit from better mobile phone and broadband services.

This work also includes:

  • supporting investment in fibre networks by opening up access to BT’s underground ducts and telegraph poles, making it cheaper, quicker and easier for its rivals to build their own networks;
  • proposed new measures to help boost mobile coverage in rural areas; and
  • our mobile coverage checker allows people to easily check what coverage is available, from which providers, in their area.