Mixed messages, the UK broadband commitment

Finland have recently passed legislation which secures their citizens a "legal right" to broadband. This step forward for Finland has resulted in a right to 1mbps broadband for all homes. This passing of law has sparked debate within the UK, discussing the British government's similar plans for the totality of UK broadband users.

According to the BBC Technology page, In a speech to MPs this week, Digital Britain minister Stephen Timms told MPs that the government's promise of broadband to all homes by the year 2010 was "an obligation."

Upon previous governmental discussion regarding this matter, MPs have only spoken of a "commitment" rather than an "obligation", only the latter of which is legally binding. The notion of providing broadband for every citizen within the UK was first heard in the Digital Britain Report which announced that the government would "commit" to a minimum level of 2Mbps for all homes by 2012.

This debate between one man's "obligation" and another's "commitment" has caused some confusion amongst UK broadband users to the extent that The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills have had to correct the minister, Stephen Timm's, reiterating that his comments were "a slip of the tongue", adding that the plans for UK broadband remained a "commitment." Andrew Ferguson, editor of broadband news site ThinkBroadband commented on this matter for the BBC:

"As yet the USO [Universal Service Obligation] or USC [Universal Service Commitment] has not been defined properly, the forthcoming Digital Economy bill and various groups working to implement it should hopefully flesh out the detail, but as is often the case we see grand plans announced, which are slowly watered down to cope with those harder-to-deal-with areas. In the UK we are at a juncture where a minister is calling for something tougher than what the original Digital Britain report laid out, but is certainly more in line with what many of the public we suspect always believed the report meant."

Finland is also promising its citizens 100mbps broadband via fibre, available to all by 2015, knocking two years off of the UK's plans. According to the UK's Office for National Statistics, the growth of broadband users in the UK has been steadily increasing since 2006. 18.3 million households in the UK (70 percent) had Internet access in 2009, an increase of just under 2 million households (11 percent) over the last year, and 4 million households (28 per cent) since 2006.

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19 Comments

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I think the key thing here between a legal right to the internet and just the government saying we should all have it comes down to cutting off the file sharers. If you pass a law saying access to the Internet is a basic human right, lawyers for people who get cut off would be able sue ISP's for breaking the law by removing the defendants right to the internet.

It'll be easy for the Government to supply everyone in the country with the Internet - all they have to do is keep on inflating the piracy numbers and then use the three strikes law to cut us all off, leaving 2 sheep in Yorkshire with a 2mb connection

HA Complaining about 1 Meg. I've got 512kb just outside Birmingham and the worst 2meg sdsl at work in the city centre. I've never experienced true broadband :(.

Nah. Where 4 miles away from a mechanical exchange so that's the best we can get. And to add insult to injury Cable stops at the top of our street co we can't even get that.

Me too, I live in central London and have never got speeds above 1.5Mbit. Highly suspicious of this 3Mbit average figure

Am I the only one who would like a moratorium on the use of the term "broadband"?

My reasons are twofold:

    * It is a misnomer
    * It is too "broad" and vague in its meaning - one person's "broadband" is another person's "slow-as-hell-POS connection".

Probably not worth replying next time eh m.keeley?

I agree with Shiranui, broadband is to broad a term. Maybe it's time for the different speeds to be classified in a more public friendly way.
This should in no way be led by the telecommunications companies as we all know how misleading any spin they'd put on it would be!

Mike Chipshop said,
Probably not worth replying next time eh m.keeley?

I agree with Shiranui, broadband is to broad a term. Maybe it's time for the different speeds to be classified in a more public friendly way.
This should in no way be led by the telecommunications companies as we all know how misleading any spin they'd put on it would be!

Thank you, Mike.

The current lack of transparency makes it difficult for the consumer to know exactly what they are getting. It also provides a convenient screen behind which telecommunications companies to hide the relative inferiority of their networks. I quite regularly score over 30Mbits on Speedtest, in another part of the world, a friend of mine gets 1.5 at best, but we are both on "Broadband".

What an insightful analysis of two quite different countries trying to reach a similar goal. I get so tired of people complaining about the UK and it's growth of broadband on this site, especially when comparisons are made with countries that have much smaller populations and higher tax rates. I can guarantee that if taxes went up to fund such projects that people would complain about that too, the proposal of a broadband tax in the UK is a perfect example of this. The bottom line is that these things are not free. It's as if many people are unable to see beyond their own noses and just enjoy criticising for the sake of it without providing any worthy alternative.

Surprised you didn't just post "first" would have been as useful.

It's obviously a massively larger/more expensive job to upgrade a country the size of the UK compared to Finland which has less than 1/10 the population.

Tell you what, as a U.S. citizen I wouldn't mind having those types of plans in my future. 100mbs by 2017? That's pretty good! I can't tell you when I can expect to see those speeds unless I move to a FIOS market which is still pretty small compared to the size of the U.S. in general.

Brodel said,
What an insightful analysis of two quite different countries trying to reach a similar goal. I get so tired of people complaining about the UK and it's growth of broadband on this site, especially when comparisons are made with countries that have much smaller populations and higher tax rates. I can guarantee that if taxes went up to fund such projects that people would complain about that too, the proposal of a broadband tax in the UK is a perfect example of this. The bottom line is that these things are not free. It's as if many people are unable to see beyond their own noses and just enjoy criticising for the sake of it without providing any worthy alternative.

No these things are not free, this is not a situation we would have been in if the government over the last 20 years hadn't been so near sighted though and kept things to a certain standard instead of allowing companies to pocket big fat profits! Companies like BT that have for years run the telecoms industry causing other companies to go into debt to offset the wholesale costs of using their flawed broadband infrastructure.

The government should impose a consortium of private companies, BT, VM, CPW etc and partially fund it to ensure that we as a country are not left behind broadband wise. We are not ready for the next stage of broadband usage, yet countries like Latvia and Bulgaria are? This is a disgrace, I don't think Chris4 was just spouting for the sake of it, this country is in a state, an absolute disgrace.

And Tim Dawg, don't hold your breath mate, the digital britain report stated we were committed to providing broadband by fibre by 2017 I doubt that we will get that. They are only committed to providing 2mb to every home by 2012. Do you really think we could expand this to 100mb to every home 5 years later???

m.keeley said,
It's obviously a massively larger/more expensive job to upgrade a country the size of the UK compared to Finland which has less than 1/10 the population.

Yes, but doesn't the UK have 10x the population and money?
I'd say GDP per capita and population density would be the real factors.
Well, Finland has a population density 15 times lower than the UK, and roughly the same GDP per capita (in purchasing power parity).
So what exactly is holding the UK?

Surely upgrading Finland's access has got to be a far more laborious job if you take in to account the size of the country and the type of geographic region.

I think that the UK is still relaxed in it's ways thinking it's still as important as it used to be, we're resting on our laurels.

Edit: I've never been to Finland, i just imagine it to be all country and mountains and forests, apologies to any fins for this assumption

dismuter said,
So what exactly is holding the UK?

I guess, plan on how to rip-off and cash in from tax payers money on this is not ready yet. I bet private companies and government is working on something already. It probably would be same "stealing wagon" as Olympic games and Crossrail Project. Stealing would start from hiring very expensive "consultants" where one such consultant would take per month more than all MPs' combined. Problems with MPs serves like a magic trick to draw attention from another tax-money elephant who will disappear again soon. Want to know who is magician? Just look who ends up with this spare elephant appear in his pocket at the end of such financial trick.