THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION (LGA) has said that those unable to afford 10Mbps broadband under the Universal Service Obligation (USO) should be offered a subsidy.
The LGA, which represents more than 370 local councils across England and Wales, said in a news post on Thursday that BT already provides a subsidised broadband package to those in need, and that the government should follow suit with a 'social tariff' for the USO.
"Introducing such a measure would mean all households connected via the USO would have the option to receive a subsidised broadband service should they face undue hardship in paying a market rate," said the release.
Councillor Mark Hawthorne, who chairs the LGA's People and Places Board, added that internet access is now essential and that subsidies will be needed as basic speeds increase in the future.
"Good digital connectivity is a vital element of everyday life for residents and can help them cut household bills, shop online for cheaper goods, stay in touch with distant relatives, access their bank accounts and even run their own businesses," he said.
"As central and local government services become more digital, the USO will need to provide faster and more reliable speeds and, for our most vulnerable residents, a subsided connection at an affordable price.
"The quality of digital connectivity can be markedly different from area to area with some households being able to access superfast broadband speeds whilst others can only achieve substantially less. Councils want to see a social tariff enabling all people to be able to access a subsidised broadband service."
However, some in the UK IT industry believe that the 10Mbps starting speed for the USO is too low.
Neil Fraser, UK manager and head of space and communications at broadband firm ViaSat, warned that 10Mbps is "still nowhere near fast enough and certainly won't be by 2020".
"People who can afford to pay more for a better service will continue to do so, furthering the divide that the LGA wants to close and creating a two-tiered nation of broadband haves and have nots," he said.
"This in turn will have effects on education, opportunity and investment, creating a vicious circle where the gap between the haves and have nots keeps expanding." µ
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