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CLA vows to fight BT as it seeks to undermine legal right to rural broadband

The CLA has vowed to fight any attempt to undermine a newly-won legal right for people living in the countryside to demand superfast broadband.


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CLA vows to fight BT as it seeks to undermine legal right to rural broadband

The organisation made the pledge as it emerged BT had offered Ministers an alternative to increase coverage.

 

Under the recently-passed Digital Economy Act, the Government was given the power to enforce a Universal Service Obligation (USO) which would give every household or business premises the right to an internet connection of 10 megabits per second (Mbps).

 

Ministers had previously promised to bring the USO into force from 2020, but following lobbying from BT – the largest provider of broadband infrastructure and a strong opponent of the USO – the commitment has weakened.

 

Instead of being forced to provide a connection to anyone who requested it, BT has proposed to roll out the infrastructure ‘proactively’, pledging speeds of at least 10 Mbps for 99 per cent of premises by 2020 and universal coverage by 2022.

 

Cosy deal

 

CLA president Ross Murray said: “The USO is necessary because it created an inalienable right which can be enforced by the premise owner. It cannot be replaced by a cosy deal with just one company allowing it to deliver connection how it sees fit.

 

“Accountability for delivering the rollout of broadband has been a closed shop discussion between the industry and regulator for too long.

 

“It is this the USO would end, making the consumer the enforcer. It is no wonder the BT Group does not want this.”

 

BT has previously threatened not to connect rural areas if it was forced to sell its Openreach broadband division - a move which was supported by many MPs who blamed it for leaving millions of people across the country with sub-standard connections.


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