Ofcom’s strategy director has told a discussion panel, which was organised by the Policy Exchange, that the United Kingdom’s aim to make a minimum download speed of 2Mbps (Megabits) available to everybody in the country by 2015 (Universal Service Commitment) may now need to be increased up to 8Mbps or 10Mbps.
The latest remark echoes one made by the telecoms regulator during mid-November 2012, at the publication of its annual 2012 Infrastructure Report. At the time Ofcom’s report said, “It is widely recognised that targets such as the USC need to evolve over time if they are to remain effective. The data we have published here suggests that it may be appropriate to consider increasing the USC target in due course.”
Steve Unger, Ofcoms Group Strategy Director, added:
“[The 2Mbit/s USC] was determined by a range of factors about what was deemed necessary at the time to have a basic internet experience and that’s how we arrived at 2Mbit/s. That’s clearly no longer the case, it’s more around 8-10Mbit/s now and this will evolve over time, so it’s unlikely that would still be sufficient in 2020.”
The UK government has previously hinted that it would be ready to reassess the USC and indeed its target for superfast speeds (currently 25Mbps+ or 30Mbps+, depending on when the Local Broadband Plan was agreed), although even Ofcom admits that such a change would still need to “take account of affordability” and “practicality“.
A spokesperson at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) told V3 that it had no current plans to change the 2Mbps target, although it did “hope to improve broadband speeds further in the context of the £300m [from the BBC TV Licence] which has been earmarked to provide support for broadband in the period 2015-17” (i.e. BDUK’s full £830m budget as previously reported).