U.K. takes harder line on rural broadband service

20 May 2016 by Steve Blum
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May I offer you something else?

Universal broadband service in Britain will have to follow demand, not lead it. That’s the decision, as it currently stands, from the U.K. government as it works out the details of implementing a previous commitment to deliver broadband service with at least 10 Mbps download speeds to everyone.

It’s a straightforward commitment for about 95% of the country, but the last 5%, in rural areas, won’t be automatically hooked up. It’ll require what amounts to pre-orders, and possibly a financial commitment from property owners. According to a BBC story

Given the high costs of providing broadband access to premises in remote areas it is right that this is done on request, rather than rolling it out and waiting to see if people in those areas want to be connected.

We know from the various interventions that the government has made to date that it is unlikely that everyone will want to be connected, even if that option is made available to them, and so we do not believe that an additional broadband rollout programme at this time is proportionate or would represent value for money.

The experience of BT – the company formerly known as British Telecom – in more densely populated areas points to the problem: of the 24 million homes upgraded to fiber-driven service, only 22% have opted to take it. those upgrades are not necessarily all fiber to the home; the figure also includes fiber to the node or cabinet, similar to upgraded DSL services in the U.S.

No financial details have been worked out, but according to the BBC the likeliest model will be for BT to pay the costs of line extensions up to about $5,000 per household, with the property owner covering anything over that. It could be a while until the final 5% even get the chance to pay for connections – a final decision on the program might not come until 2020.