BT offers £600m for 10mbps rural broadband investment by 2020 as MPs consider Universal Service Obligation plans

Lynsey Barber
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More businesses wil be able to get online under new plans (Source: Getty)

BT has promised to invest up to £600m in bringing broadband to rural parts of Britain in a bid to avoid tougher regulation.

It wants to get 99 per cent of the country connected to broadband of at least 10mbps by 2020, a speed that's considered good enough to stream films, use video chat and browsing online at the same time.

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The proposals put forward to the government by the telecoms firm come after the right to request a minimum broadband service was made possible under new laws. The Universal Service Obligation (USO) was approved in the Digital Economy Act passed by Parliament earlier this year.

BT's efforts to get on the front foot with the offer which would be delivered via Openreach, come as the government opens a consultation on the detail of a USO, such as minimum speed. The government will consider whether to accept the offer from BT after the consultation.

"We are pleased to make a voluntary offer to deliver the government’s goal for universal broadband access at minimum speeds of 10Mbps," said BT chief executive Gavin Patterson.

"This investment will reinforce the UK’s status as the leading digital economy in the G20. We already expect 95 per cent of homes and businesses to have access to superfast broadband speeds of 24Mbps or faster by the end of 2017. Our latest initiative aims to ensure that all UK premises can get faster broadband, even in the hardest to reach parts of the UK."

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The proposals were welcomed by the culture secretary Karen Bradley.

"We warmly welcome BT’s offer and now will look at whether this or a regulatory approach works better for homes and businesses," she said.

"Whichever of the two approaches we go with in the end, the driving force behind our decision making will be making sure we get the best deal for consumers."

The move also comes after scrutiny over BTs Openreach business which it was forced to split out into a separate company by the regulator Ofcom.

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