The government has said it will not conduct another national broadband roll-out programme in order to meet its promise that every citizen in Blighty will have access to 10Mbps by 2010.
In its consultation document regarding the Universal Service Obligation promised by David Cameron last year, the department for Culture, Media and Sport said "an additional broadband roll-out programme at this stage would neither be proportionate or represent value for money".
It said the USO must be technology-neutral: "that is, the technology that is to be used to deliver them should not be prescribed."
The USO will enshrine citizens' right to to request a 10Mbps service from providers.
According to the department, the previous state-funded Superfast Broadband Programme started in 2010 is now on track to provide 95 per cent of the UK superfast connectivity by the end of 2017. It said all homes and businesses can now access basic broadband at speeds of 2Mbps.
However, last year Ofcom reported that approximately 2.4 million (eight per cent) of premise in the UK were unable to receive broadband speeds above 10Mbps.
Earlier this month the chief exec of BT Gavin Patterson said if the telco were tasked with providing a "fibre rich" USO to the final five percent, it would cost around £2bn.
"We currently estimate that, even with BDUK’s existing intervention and continued commercial rollout, up to 1 million UK premises will not be able to access speeds of 10Mbps or higher by the end of 2017," noted the consultation document.
It said: "We have to encourage the market towards ubiquitous ultrafast services but balance the additional benefits of increasing speed against the costs today of providing the infrastructure. As technology advances, costs of deploying faster speed connections should drop, making faster connections more viable and more extensively available."
The department said it does not have a detailed blueprint for a broadband USO here in the UK - but noted it must build on existing service provision, without undermining competition. "Detailed analysis of these issues is required before we can more fully understand the options for the design of the USO."
There are three possible ways to achieve the USO: a publicly funded scheme, a provider-funded scheme, or a combo of the two.
The consultation period will run for four weeks from March 23 to April 18. ®