Everyone in the UK could have the legal right to 30 Mbps broadband speeds as part of amendments to the Digital Economy Bill.
Yesterday the House of Lords voted in favour of an amendment to the Bill that would ensure download speeds of 30 Mbps and upload speeds of 6Mbps are made available to everyone in Britain by 2020.
What’s more, the amendment puts pressure on the government to target rural area and small businesses, and also sets a target for broadband connection speeds of “two gigabits or more”.
According to calculations from Ofcom, the cost would be £2 billion compared with the £1.1 billion Bill for the 10 Mbps Universal Service Obligation (USO) originally put forward.
Back in November the government laid out plans to boost the broadband sector with an investment of £400million, with private investors being asked to match this figure.
An integral part of the new Bill was a new USO, which suggested setting the minimum speed at 10 Mbps throughout the country.
But that’s not enough for the House of Lords, where Labour peer Lord Mendelsohn said that speeds of 10 Mbps would be “unfit for usage in a very short time”.
Culture Minister Lord Ashton of Hyde said introducing an USO was about setting a minimum standard.
He told the House of Lords: “The USO is a safety net to prevent social and economic inclusion, not a statement of ambition. We are setting the minimum – not the maximum.”
However Labour’s spokesman Lord Mendelsohn made it clear that speeds of 10 Mbps will soon become out-dated.
He said: “Whilst the Government has introduced measures to try and move policy along, and some have been very interesting and innovative, the very introduction of the Universal Service Obligation is an acknowledgement that they have not worked.”
He added: “Without the elements in this amendment, the Bill will add to that list of tinkering without success.”
Lord Mendelsohn also said that the economic case for spending £2billion on a 30 Mbps USO is “extraordinarily well justified”.
In addition a non-affiliated peer, Lord Mitchell, said: “I felt so terribly frustrated by the lack of ambition in the Government’s requirements, and what they’re putting forward. Gigabytes should be king.”
These changes will now need to go back to the House of Commons, where MPs will approve or decline the changes in order to form the final Bill.