About 1.1 million residential and business customers in Britain have no access to high-speed broadband, a situation unlikely to improve given the government's abandonment of its Universal Service Commitment.
In the Ofcom Connected Nations 2017 report, released earlier this month, the UK's communications regulator determined that 4% of British properties cannot get broadband speeds required to meet "typical needs."
Now, these are not exactly gigabit speeds. Nor are they even high-speed connections. Rather, the British government defines as acceptable download speeds of at least 10 Mbit/s and upload speeds of at least 1 Mbit/s. This is at a time when leading providers are deploying (or at least testing and investigating) high-speed infrastructures.
Superfast broadband in Britain -- download speeds of 30 Mbit/s or more -- now is available to 91% of UK homes and businesses, or about 27 million thresholds, versus 25.5 million a year prior, Ofcom found. Forty percent of users tap into this offering, compared with about 33% 12 months ago, the report said.
Incumbents rarely rely on full fiber, however. Currently, only 3% of properties have FTTH, up slightly from 2% in 2016, said the survey. But a number of operators have publicly shared plans to expand their fiber deployments.
“Broadband coverage is improving, but our findings show there’s still urgent work required before people and businesses get the services they need," said Steve Unger, Ofcom chief technology officer in a statement. “Everyone should have good access to the Internet, wherever they live and work. So we are supporting plans for universal broadband, and promoting investment in full-fiber technology that can provide ultrafast, reliable connections.”
Speaking on BBC radio on Dec. 20, however, Matt Hancock, the government's Minister for Digital -- who oversees broadband, broadcasting, creative industries, cyber and tech industries -- said the ruling Conservative Party has replaced its election-year pledge to provide all the UK with "superfast broadband" with a "legal right," whereby residential and business customers can "demand" high-speed broadband, reported TelecomTV.com.
Under the new policy, broadband providers have a legal requirement to provide potential subscribers with this service "subject to a cost threshold," which would appear to further harm rural and inner-city residents already on the wrong side of the digital divide.
— Alison Diana, Editor, UBB2020. Follow us on Twitter @UBB2020 or @alisoncdiana.
(Home page art source: Bryan Ledgard / Flickr [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)