Minimum broadband speed set at 10Mbps in Digital Economy Bill despite peers’ amendment
The UK Government rejects a House of Lords amendment to boost minimum speed to 30 Mbps, citing “serious concerns” about ability to deliver
Matt Hancock MP - Image credit: Parliament TV
The UK Government rejected the House of Lords’ calls for the minimum broadband speed in the UK to be “more ambitious” than the 10 Mbps originally proposed in the Digital Economy Bill.
The bill – which was discussed in the House of Commons last week for the first time since it was passed by the Lords earlier this month – includes provisions for a universal service obligation (USO) that will give people the legal right to request broadband speed of a certain level.
The UK Government’s bill proposed that this be set at 10 Mbps, but peers sent it back with an amendment that would raise this to 30 Mbps.
However, in the rush to pass the legislation before parliament was dissolved, there was no time for a lengthy ‘ping pong’ between the houses, and the Government rejected the Lords’ proposal.
Speaking in the Commons, digital minister Matt Hancock said the UK Government had “serious concerns” about whether the peers’ amendment was deliverable.
“As drafted, it is counterproductive to the implementation of a USO, because of the risk of legal challenge and the delay that that would cause,” he said.
In lieu of that, Hancock proposed an amendment that would require any broadband USO to set a download speed of at least 10 Mbps, and that the UK Government would ask Ofcom to review the minimum download speed once the take-up of superfast had reached 75 per cent.
“That gives the assurance that any USO speed will be reconsidered once a substantial majority of subscribers are on superfast,” he said.
Shadow digital minister Louise Haigh, said that while she appreciated the Government’s argument, it was “disappointing that more of an effort was not made” to discuss it in earlier debates, and that the Government had missed an opportunity to set the UK up for the future.
“Of course, we would have liked the Government to back 30 Mbps for all, and I do not accept that millions of consumers and businesses should simply be left behind,” she said.
“This was an opportunity to prepare the UK for the ubiquitous future demanded by the digital revolution, and although the Government’s amendment is a first step, it is a baby step and nothing more.”
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