Cameron promises to give consumers the right to demand access to fast broadband

CONSUMERS will be able to demand access to fast broadband wherever they live under measures to be set out by the Government next year.

David Cameron

David Cameron is pledging to make broadband access a right, putting it on a par with electricity and water.

The Government is considering introducing a universal service obligation that would give people the right to demand a telecoms company gives them access to broadband with a speed of at least 10 mbps.

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It is understood the precise detail of how the obligation would work is still being discussed and there is a recognition that a balance needs to be found that ensures it does not impose unrealistic costs on telecoms firms.

However, the introduction of a legal right to broadband is seen as one of the tools that will ensure the hardest to reach properties are not left behind by the digital revoluton.

The Prime Minister said: “Access to the internet is a necessity, like gas, electricity and water. But for too long, too many people in Yorkshire have been denied it. This week, that changes. I’m announcing a major step in my digital mission for Britain: a pledge to get Britain – all of Britain – online, and connected to fast broadband.

“That is why I’m announcing a giant leap in my digital mission for Britain. Just as our forebears effectively brought gas, electricity and water to all, we’re going to bring fast broadband to every home and business that wants it.

“That’s right: we’re getting Britain – all of Britain – online, and on the way to becoming the most prosperous economy in the whole of Europe.”

Broadband access has been a major issue for Yorkshire, particularly for the region’s most rural districts.

The Government is already committed to ensuring 95 per cent of properties have access to fast broadband by 2017. However, questions have remained over how the final properties will be reached.

The plan to introduce a legal right on broadband will be part of a new commitment to ensure everyone has access before the next election in 2020.

By specifying a minimum speed, it would also aim to force providers to improve the quality of service where homes and businesses have access to slower broadband.

Mr Cameron said the obligation would mean any household or business could request fast internet access “unless it’s especially expensive to set up”.

He said: “Just think of all the jobs that can be created here if businesses are able to set up anywhere; all the tourists and visitors that would be attracted to this great county if it has the facilities they need; all the families that would move here and boost the economy.

“Quite simply, universal service is vital to the future of Yorkshire – where local MPs like Kevin Hollinrake and Rishi Sunak have campaigned for better broadband.”

The Government’s efforts to promote the rollout of broadband have been criticised.

A report from the Public Accounts Committee of MPs last year said the Government had failed to promote competition in its £1.2bn rural broadband programme where BT secured everyone of the 44 contracts on offer.

Concerns have also been raised that companies do not have to publish their plans for rolling out of broadband networks making it harder for alternative providers to access the market.