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Broadband Universal Service Obligation

Volume 603: debated on Thursday 3 December 2015

As the Prime Minister announced, people will, by the end of this Parliament, have a legal right to request a broadband connection, no matter where they live, from a designated provider, at a minimum speed, up to a reasonable cost threshold. We will consult on those plans in early 2016.

I thank the Secretary of State for meeting me and being so patient about my many queries on this issue. Telford residents in the Trench Lock and Lightmoor new-build areas, and residents of historic Ironbridge, tell me that they struggle daily with inadequate broadband. When can they expect the same, increased connectivity as other people across the UK?

The Telford and Wrekin project is set to deliver superfast broadband access to 98% of homes and businesses by the end of phase 2 in 2017. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to press us to ensure that the few remaining constituents of hers who do not have such access obtain it. From this month, they will have a right to a basic broadband service of 2 megabits per second, and will be able to take advantage of the universal service obligation when it comes into effect.

16. I welcome the Secretary of State’s statement, but will he assure me that the pace of the roll-out will be increased so that businesses in my constituency, such as Excel Group in Wareham, can have fibre access? (902544)

We will achieve the 95% target by the end of 2017, when the contractual arrangements we have achieved will enable us to invest more in going beyond that. We will be putting in place the universal service obligation, which will benefit my hon. Friend’s constituents and those of all other Members.

It is all very well having the universal service obligation, and I urge that it be introduced as quickly as possible, but the key question is the definition of “affordable” or “reasonable”. Will the Secretary of State confirm that when it is introduced my constituents will be able to afford what the providers offer?

The universal service obligation is a safety net to benefit those few remaining people who have been unable to access superfast broadband. We are consulting on the precise details, including the costing, and we are discussing with industry how that will be met. I assure my hon. Friend that it is intended that it should be affordable to his constituents and those of all other Members.