Department launches consultation on proposal from BT for alternative to regulatory approach to universal service obligation
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has claimed progress in its effort to provide fast broadband across the UK with a proposal from BT Openreach to take a more proactive approach to providing a 10Mbps service as part of the universal service obligation (USO).
It said the company, which has the contracts to provide the infrastructure through most of the country, has said it is ready to do so without waiting for the requests that are required under the existing universal service obligation (USO). BT’s proposal involves using a range of technologies, including fibre to cabinet, fibre to home and wireless. It would involve an estimated investment of ?450-600 million to take 99% of premises to the 10Mbps download speed – with a minimum 1Mbps for uploads – by 2020. DCMS said the speed would meet the typical needs of a family to stream films, carry out video conferencing and browse the web at the same time. If achieved, this should ensure that people have sufficient bandwidth to access public services online.
The department has also launched a consultation with proposals on how to achieve the USO, saying the feedback will help it make a decision on whether to follow the voluntary BT approach or stick with its existing, regulatory plan.
Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said: “The Government is taking action to ensure that people everywhere in the UK can get a decent broadband connection as soon as possible. We warmly welcome BT’s offer and now will look at whether this or a regulatory approach works better for homes and businesses.
“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.”
Under BT’s proposal, it would fund the investment and recover its costs through the charges for products providing access to its local access networks. The approach to recovering these costs will be considered in current wholesale local access review by communications regulator Ofcom.
The move is unlikely to impress the critics of the Government’s decision to settle for 10Mbps as the satisfactory bandwidth under the USO. It was announced1 when David Cameron was prime minister in 2015, and a proposal from the House of Lords to beef it up to 30Mbps was dropped shortly before this year’s general election2. DCMS said that over 93% of homes and businesses can now get 24Mbps. But last year it published an analysis3 revealing that there were still significant broadband ‘blackspots’ around the country.
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In another blow to NBN’s reputation, Vodafone is using NBN installation disasters as a marketing tool to promote its upcoming home broadband service with 4G LTE failover. While NBN chief Bill Morrow lambasts ISPs for skimping on bandwidth, the national rollout continues to leave homes with no home phone or fixed-line broadband for months at a time. With all parties refusing to accept responsibility for breaking this deadlock, Vodafone has stepped in to offer a mobile insurance policy for homes trapped in Australia’s Catch 22 broadband limbo.
Vodafone’s mobile fallback aims to save the day when your NBN installation doesn’t go according to plan. Photo: Adam Turner
Set to sell NBN services later this year, Vodafone has unveiled its Wi-Fi Hub home broadband modem which has a built-in 4G SIM card – allowing homes to connect to Vodafone’s mobile broadband network “in-between sign-up and service installation and where repairs need to be carried out by NBN”.
Vodafone’s mobile fallback service will be available for up to 30 days at a time, offering maximum download speeds of 12 Mbps and 1 Mbps uploads – assuming customers have decent Vodafone coverage at their home. Many Fairfax readers cite the lack of decent mobile coverage at home as their main reason for reluctantly sticking with a fixed-line home phone service. The mobile fallback will offer a lifeline to homes which have signed up for the NBN but are left with no service as NBN resolves installation and activation issues.
Often these customers are denied the option to return to their previous fixed-line service, even though the ACCC has expressly permitted telcos to do this when the NBN has left homes in the lurch. Vodafone customers will not be charged for the mobile data used while waiting for an NBN installation, and the telco is prepared to extend this service beyond 30 days depending on individual circumstances.
It remains to be seen exactly how Vodafone will determine which homes are entitled to an extension on the 30-day deadline, although both Vodafone and NBN should expect another backlash if Vodafone starts cutting off homes while NBN still has them in the too-hard basket. There can be long delays between NBN installations and successful activations.
The announcement comes after Telstra unveiled its home Frontier Gateway earlier this year, which also offers 4G failover but isn’t specifically marketed as catering to victims of NBN installation delays. Telstra limits speeds to 6 Mbps but has not placed a time limit on how long customers can use the mobile network while their fixed-line broadband is down.
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Get the latest news and updates emailed straight to your inbox. While Telstra’s 4G fallback is designed to automatically kick in, even during a brief fixed-line outage, Vodafone’s 4G fallback is intended to “resolve a fault affecting an individual customer’s fixed service” and ends “when your NBN service is activated or re-activated”.
After this it doesn’t kick in automatically, Vodafone has confirmed that if there is a fixed-line dropout you need to call Vodafone so it can troubleshoot the problem before it considers re-activating the mobile service.
Has the NBN rollout gone to plan in your neighbourhood?
What’s your Plan B?
- ^ NBN chief Bill Morrow lambasts ISPs for skimping on bandwidth (www.smh.com.au)
- ^ Australia’s Catch 22 broadband limbo (www.smh.com.au)
- ^ reluctantly sticking with a fixed-line home phone service (www.smh.com.au)
- ^ ACCC has expressly permitted (www.smh.com.au)
- ^ Frontier Gateway (www.smh.com.au)
Rise Broadband’s 3rd Annual “No Barriers Warriors Rocky Mountain Veteran Expedition” Names Twelve Participants
Rise Broadband, the country’s largest fixed wireless broadband service provider, and No Barriers Warriors have selected 12 wounded veterans for its all expenses paid Rocky Mountain Veteran Expedition helping veterans address personal challenges and eliminate obstacles as they rejoin families and communities. Selected from nominations by Rise Broadband customers and the general public, co-ed vets and four experienced guides will convene in Rise’s home state of Colorado from September 23 to 30 for this 3rd annual mountain training. The week includes a 20-mile wilderness trek, strenuous climb, summit attempt, community service project and more; all designed to push team members physically and mentally while learning how to better face adversity, stretch goals and lead/serve others.
“We are very proud to be actively involved in our third No Barriers Expedition because many of our employees and customers have served and protected our country through military service,” said Jack Koo, Rise Broadband’s president and chief executive officer. “We are honored to give back to these 12 vets and their families by providing support as they rejoin their communities.”
The Expedition Participants:
Bradley Bartlett – U.S. Army (TX)
Timothy Hilgner – U.S. Army (CO)
Waco Blakley – U.S. Air Force and U.S. Marine Corps (OK)
“Our 3rd Annual Rocky Mountain Veteran Expedition had an incredible response and another record number of nominations,” said Dave Shurna, Executive Director of No Barriers USA. “The selected individuals represent a very deserving field of candidates and we look forward to working closely with them over our eight days while introducing them to the No Barriers Life!”
The team members now begin individual training to prepare for the challenges ahead and will meet in Denver on September 23. About Rise Broadband
Rise Broadband is the largest fixed wireless service provider in the US; offering affordable high-speed internet, digital phone and DIRECTV services across 16 states. Rise Broadband’s parent company, JAB Wireless, Inc., was established in 2005 and now serves nearly 200,000 residential and business accounts in rural and suburban areas of the Midwest, Rocky Mountain and Southwest regions.
The company, headquartered in Englewood, CO (metro Denver), has earned an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. Additional information is available at www.RiseBroadband.com or by calling (844) 411-7473. About No Barriers Warriors
No Barriers Warriors is a program of No Barriers USA, a non-profit organization serving veterans with disabilities, students and families as well as survivors of the fallen to break through barriers, find their inner purpose and contribute their best to the world.
Learn more at nobarrierswarriors.org.