Broadband USO should include social tariff

Councils have argued that the government's broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO) should include a social tariff to ensure a basic service of at least 10Mbps is available at an affordable price to those most in need.

Such action would ensure that 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.

The Local Government Association (LGA) believes that a similar offer to BT’s subsidised broadband package should be provided by any suppliers that would deliver the USO, meaning that those who qualify for a basic reduced service would be able to request a connection of at least 10Mbps at an affordable cost should their current package not be up to speed.

The LGA, which has launched an Up To Speed campaign, also argues that broadband access has the potential to reduce social isolation and enable people to be cared for more easily outside of hospitals.

Councillor Mark Hawthorne, chairman of the LGA's People and Places Board, said: "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. 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."

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