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How we’re changing the rules for the broadband universal service

Published: 11 November 2021
Last updated: 16 March 2023

Today we’ve changed the rules on how BT should provide quotes to customers who have applied for a connection under the broadband universal service.

Under the universal service, which was introduced by the Government, eligible homes and businesses have the right to request an upgraded connection if they can’t get a download speed of 10 Mbit/s and an upload speed of 1 Mbit/s.

BT is responsible for connecting these properties, except in the Hull area where KCOM is the designated provider.

Under the scheme, BT will pay the cost of connecting eligible properties, provided the cost is £3,400 or less. If the required work costs more, the customer can choose to pay the difference (these are referred to as ‘excess costs’). BT must take into account that costs may be shared among other customers who could use the same broadband infrastructure.

Today, we’ve changed the rules to clarify that where excess costs are very high, BT should inform customers of the total excess costs of the shared infrastructure and gain agreement to cover these before delivering the connection. One or more customers in the local area can then cover the total excess costs of the build.

Following this change, a number of customers will receive lower quotes in the future, but the cost of connecting some properties – including those in the most remote parts of the UK – will remain very high. We will continue to work with industry and the Government to look at alternative technology and funding solutions for these hard-to-reach properties.

What is the broadband universal service?

Since 20 March 2020, if you haven’t been able to get a download speed of 10 Mbit/s and an upload speed of 1 Mbit/s, you can request an upgraded connection. You can request this from BT, or to KCOM if you live in the Hull area - you don’t need to be an existing customer of BT or KCOM to apply.

Here’s what the process looks like:

Call BT or KCOM: they will check if you are eligible for an upgrade. If you are eligible, your connection will be built as quickly as possible. If not, you will be given other options.

Am I eligible?

When you contact BT or KCOM they have 30 days to confirm if you are eligible, and how much it will cost to build your connection.

Your home or business will be eligible if it:

  • has no access to existing decent broadband; and
  • will not be covered by a public broadband scheme offered by the UK and devolved governments in the next 12 months.

If you currently only have access to a decent service that is priced over £46.40 per month, you'll also have the right to request a universal service connection.

How long does it take to set up?

Most people will get a connection within 12 months, but it may take up to 24 months for some.

What if I'm not eligible?

If you’re not eligible, BT/KCOM will tell you what your options are:

Satellite broadband – You might be able to get a connection via a satellite broadband service. To receive satellite services, you will need to install a satellite dish on your property.

You may be experiencing in home connectivity issues which could affect your broadband speeds. It can depend on factors like the location of your wifi router within the home or the number of people in your area going online at busy times. Contact your provider to see if they have any advice on what you can do to improve your connectivity in your home.

You may be eligible in the future – BT/KCOM will let you know if circumstances change. Future public broadband schemes will contact you if you become eligible to get a connection through these.

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