Vaizey: Legal right to internet access, sure. But I'm NOT gonna die on the 10Mbps hill

And Culture Sec still not a fan of splitting BT and Openreach

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UK digital minister Ed Vaizey has shied away from guaranteeing a legal right to a universal service obligation of 10Mbps by 2020.

Speaking in front of a Parliamentary select committee on “Establishing World-Class Connectivity Throughout the UK”, Vaizey said the government will include a legal right to a universal service obligation (USO) in its upcoming Digital Economy Bill.

However, he said that exactly what that right entails will have to be consulted on.

David Cameron promised last year to give everybody the legal right to request a broadband connection capable of delivering a minimum speed of 10Mbps by 2020. But some have criticised the 10Mbps target as lacking ambition; in contrast to the UK, Luxembourg is aiming for speeds of 1Gbps by 2020.

However, Vaizey told MPs that to all intents and purposes it was a USO of speeds near 10Mps.

He said: "I'm not going to guarantee every premise in every part of the country is going to get 10Mps - as I’ve said earlier, we still have to work out the detail and there may be a cost. But it should be possible, as we have a satellite scheme that should get people to the 2Mbps guarantee.. but really when you put a satellite on the house you are going to get nearer 10Mbps if not more."

Vaizey was also quizzed by MPs as to the appropriateness of his remarks prior to Ofcom's Digital Communications Review, namely that he was sceptical about a formal separation of BT and Openreach.

He had told the Financial Times last October: "I think full separation would be an enormous undertaking, incredibly time consuming [and have] lots of potential to backfire,” adding: “Ofcom is looking at it, I am a sceptic but we will have to see what Ofcom comes out with.”

Vaizey denied that his remarks had put undue pressure on the regulator not to recommend a structural separation, a decision it later took in February.

"I believe you can achieve far more, far more quickly if you follow a negotiated route," he said. "I do think ministers are entitled to flag up concerns."

The minister said he endorsed Ofcom boss Sharon White's view that Openreach should: have 100 per cent control over its budget; make its own investment decisions; have an independent management structure, board and directors; choose its own technologies; and have a different mechanism for ensuring fair treatment of customers.

Vaizey said he has also written to the Advertising Standards Authority on the issue of the misleading way broadband speeds are advertised. ®


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