Designing the Universal Service Obligation

Rural broadband report images_34412

Your chance to have a say on how Government deliver  broadband

Ofcom consults on how to get a 10 ten megabit broadband ‘on reasonable request’ by 2020.

Feedback until 23rd June 2016.


The Government has an ambition of giving anyone a right to a broadband connection with a download speed of 10Mbps ‘on reasonable request’. This is their proposed definition of a Universal Service Obligation, which would place into law the ability to ask for a broadband connection for those households (and  assume farms) who will not benefit from the £1.7 billion public funded superfast roll out of broadband by 2017. The Universal Service Obligation is expected to form part of the proposed Digital Economy Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech in May.

Purpose of this consultation

Ofcom the digital industry regulator is consulting on how a Universal Service Obligation will work in practice.  This is because Ofcom will be responsible for making the legislation work.

Hence they are consulting the digital industry and wide stakeholders and asking questions such as:

  • How should the technical specification of the Universal Service Obligation be designed– should it be specified by upload and download speed, latency or capacity and has asked for comments the minimum speed of 10Mbs.
  • Whether broadband infrastructure is affordable, with the option that consumers may have to ‘make contributions to excess construction costs’ where they are in locations more expensive to connect to.
  • What technologies should be used to ensure a connection on reasonable request is technically possible and affordable.
  • How should the Univeral Service Obligation be paid for, the Government prefers the digital industries to pay, with the most remote consumers meeting additional costs.

What is the NFU doing and how you can get involved?

NFU will be responding to this consultation and would welcome your views, please also feel free to respond yourself or let your MP know your views as they will have the chance to debate the Universal Service Obligation in Parliament

What is the NFU position on the Universal Service Obligation?

The NFU believes that a better solution is for the Government to complete the superfast roll out, so that we can compete with our international neighbours, who are working to achieve EU targets of 30mbps by 2020, with 50% of premises having 100mbps. The Universal Service Obligation as currently proposed offers maybe 10mpbs by 2020, if you request it and are able to pay more for your connection. It also relies on their being an operator able to deliver it. We are concerned it doesn’t really offer a safety net at all.

The NFU Spotlight on Farm Broadband and Mobile Networks document is available through Call First 0370 845 8458 or online, we also have more information on the NFU Website dedicated Broadband and Mobile page.

Last edited on: 08:06:2016

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NFU members: Have your say

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  • Posted by: J HATTPosted on: 09/06/2016 08:35:23

    Comment: I was pleased when I heard that broadband in our nearby village was being upgraded, as our speed is between 0.5 & 1.5 . However when there was no improvement on the standard service (towards the stated "up to 15") I was told that we would only get improvement by paying for the higher speed service.
    Is it true that the standard broadband will remain abysmally slow?
  • Posted by: Roger TruelovePosted on: 15/06/2016 23:53:11

    Comment: A minimum speed of 10Mbps by 2020 is very unambitious but if it is a genuine universal obligation then at least the last 5% can no longer be put continuously in the 'too difficult' box. But a universal obligation should be exactly that, a true licence condition properly enforced and not subject to discretionary charges at the operators whim.
    A more acceptable target speed is the 30/100 Mbps by 2020 EU one, but this is bound to exclude more remote areas and so will be unlikely to benefit farms.
    The headline speed figure is not enough either. 3.5Mbps download is adequate for basic browsing but asymmetric technologies provide dismal upload speeds, which are equally important for business (publishing to the web, bulk file transfer, image and video uploads etc etc). Neither does satellite access provide a satisfactory solution except as a stop-gap, since latencies are too high for many highly interactive remote-access connections, and for voice over IP.
    It is time networks, especially Openreach, were given less wriggle room and genuinely compelled to deliver. Targets are forever being adjusted, or new ones trumpeted just as the existing ones are being missed.
    By the way the same goes for the mobile network operators - we are just 3.5 miles from a rapidly growing town, but the mobile signal has not improved in 20 years.
  • Posted by: Martin KnowlesPosted on: 16/06/2016 13:57:42

    Comment: Small DIY Livery Business for horses. 3 miles from Colchester Town Hall, 1/2 mile from nearest fibre box, download speed 1.2 mbps, Upload 0.58 mbps. In a "blue" area (i.e no prospect of a Superfast connection) sandwiched between 2 "red" areas and a "green" . V.slow internet access. Other residents on our lane have similar or worse problems. Did not attend recent Superfast Essex event for small business users as no point until we have a proper connection. Organisers suggested I signed on to Satellite, which costs. Fortunately My Smartphone connection works well. Grateful everything NFU can do to help.
  • Posted by: [email protected]Posted on: 16/06/2016 22:07:56

    Comment: Just because I live in the country I don't pay more for my water or electricity so why should I pay more for broadband. This appears to be yet another attempt to hit the pockets of those who live in rural areas

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