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UK homes to have legal right to access high-speed broadband by 2020

UK homes and business will have a legal right to request high speed broadband. Credit: PA

Everyone in the UK will have a legal right to high-speed broadband by 2020, the government has confirmed.

Under the Universal Service Obligation (USO), homes and businesses will have access to speeds of at least 10 Mbps.

It comes after a proposal from BT to deliver universal broadband through a voluntary agreement was rejected.

Openreach, which is owned by BT and controls the UK's broadband network, had offered to ensure to improve access to 1.4 million rural homes.

After consideration the government said it did not not feel the proposal was "strong enough" to take the regulatory USO off the table.

In response to the announcement, BT said it respected the government’s decision.

The government said it welcomed BT’s continued investment to deliver broadband across the UK. Credit: PA

"BT and Openreach want to get on with the job of making decent broadband available to everyone in the UK," a statement said.

"We'll continue to explore the commercial options for bringing faster speeds to those parts of the country which are hardest to reach."

Matt Hancock, minister for Digital, told the BBC's Today programme: "Access means you can phone up somebody, ask for it and then someone has the legal duty to deliver on that promise.

"It is about having the right to demand it, so it will be an on-demand programme," he added.

Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said the plan will help deliver in a 'digital age'. Credit: PA

Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said the government wants "everyone to benefit from a fast and reliable connection".

"We are grateful to BT for their proposal but have decided that only a regulatory approach will make high speed broadband a reality for everyone in the UK, regardless of where they live or work.

"This is all part of our work on ensuring that Britain’s telecoms infrastructure is fit for the future and will continue to deliver the connectivity that consumers need in the digital age."

In July, a report by MPs found that over six million UK broadband connections may not be up to minimum government download speeds.

They called for Ofcom to produce better data on the take-up and availability of connections, and consider legal rather than voluntary codes of practice for internet providers.

Ofcom has also been urged to get tougher on broadband providers. It previously found 1.4 million people have download speeds below 10 Mb/s.