Monday, 25 April 2016 10:12

Concern at broadband proposal costs

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Concern at broadband proposal costs

Government plans for faster broadband threaten to impose an unfair cost on rural residents, says the Rural Services Network.

The warning is contained in response to a broadband consultation by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

The DCMS consultation is seeking views on a new broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO).

The government says the USO will give people the right to an affordable broadband connection, at a minimum speed, from a designated provider, up to a reasonable cost threshold.

But the network said: "We are very concerned with the proposal to make the USO entirely demand-led and not to have a successor to the Superfast Broadband Programme."

Hard-to-reach – mainly rural – premises would cost more to connect with broadband networks, which justified public sector intervention, said the network.

But it warned: "The focus of public funding for broadband should be (and always should have been) hard-to-reach areas, rather than commercially marginal areas."

Although details were yet to be worked out, it seemed clear that the proposed approach would place a large part of the USO cost onto consumers in currently unconnected areas.

"It would introduce a significant cost-penalty for consumers living or working in very rural areas," said the network's response to the consultation.

It added: "This seems to fly in the face of the promise that the USO would provide broadband connections at a reasonable cost."

The network said it was also "very unclear" how practical a demand-led USO would be to deliver.

"Given that the rest of the USO connection cost would fall on a network provider, the question arises how would providers be forced to deliver in the most rural areas?

"It seems inevitable that they will be unwilling and will seek ways to avoid delivery in the highest cost rural areas."

The network said it therefore believed that there must be a successor to the Superfast Broadband Programme as part of introducing any USO.

"This would avoid there being an unacceptable cost-penalty for rural consumers and would ensure that providers are willing to deliver on the USO in rural areas.

Although a USO was welcome in principle, the network said an entirely demand-led proposal was flawed and unfair.

"As it stands, the USO would only seem to give the right to ask for a broadband connection. We very much hope that the proposal will therefore be looked at again."

The network's full response to the consultation can be seen here. The consultation closed on 23 March and the government is now analysing submissions.

People in this conversation

  • I was firmly corrected by HMG's spin doctors who pointed out that, as the last paragraphs in your item say, the government merely said:
    "the USO will give people the right to REQUEST an affordable broadband connection, at a minimum speed, from a designated provider, up to a reasonable cost threshold.

    The devil is, as always in the detail. Sure, you can ask......................

  • Guest (CArol)

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    The providers are not interested in the rural community BT, in our experience being the worst. Perhaps if these companies stopped sponsoring football, sports channels and paying A list actors to do their ads they may have some money to convert our exchange and provide us with a service that doesn't need re-setting half a dozen times a day not to mention the disproportionate cost cf those who do get a good service. Sadly, even though it's far from rocket science, I fear it will never happen

    from Northumberland, UK
  • Guest (Janet Carr)

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    When the PM cut short a West Country holiday apparently because of poor mobile/broadband, I thought that he and the government might start to have some concept of what life is like for many rural residents. Sadly I was mistaken. It has always been more expensive and difficult to reside permanently in the countryside (rather than for holidays), and it seems that we are to continue to be penalised. Broadband is now considered as vital as other utility services, and provided to all without question

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