Ministers have rejected a proposal by telecoms giant BT to deliver better broadband, instead opting to follow through on a Tory manifesto pledge to make high-speed internet a legal right.
High-speed broadband will be delivered by a regulatory universal service obligation (USO) from 2020, the government announced this morning.
Over the summer BT proposed to ensure the UK's internet needs were better served by delivering universal broadband under a "voluntary agreement".
But the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) felt BT's proposals were not "strong enough" to take USO off the table.
“We know how important broadband is to homes and businesses and we want everyone to benefit from a fast and reliable connection," said culture secretary Karen Bradley.
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.
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BT said it "respected" the government decision. A spokesperson added: “BT and Openreach want to get on with the job of making decent broadband available to everyone in the UK so we’ll continue to explore the commercial options for bringing faster speeds to those parts of the country which are hardest-to-reach."
Meanwhile, BT rival TalkTalk welcomed the government move, with boss Tristia Harrison saying it was "the right decision for consumers".
She said: "Broadband is increasingly a utility and it is critical that all of society has fast, affordable access. By opting for formal regulation rather than weaker promises, ministers are guaranteeing consumers will get the minimum speeds they need at a price they can afford."