Councils Support Draft Broadband Comparison Rules

Fibre, network, broadband © Datskevich Aleh Shutterstock 2012

The proposed regulations would force Internet providers to make house-by-house speed estimates available to the public for the first time

Local councils said they support a legal measure being debated in the House of Commons that would give individuals house-by-house data on broadband speeds from different providers when choosing where to live.

The proposed rules are included in the draft Digital Economy Bill, which is due for its second reading in Parliament on Tuesday.


Premises-level speed data

If users want to compare broadband speeds for a property they must currently contact each provider individually or carry out their own tests; something that isn’t possible before moving in.

Under the regulations now in place providers only give estimated speeds for geographic areas and not particular locations, but even properties on the same street can have speeds that vary “markedly”, according to a group representing 370 local councils.

“Good digital connectivity is a vital element of everyday life for residents,” said Mark Hawthorne, head of the People and Places board at the Local Government Association (LGA) in a statement.

He said the proposed rules would allow residents to “more easily compare who will provide the best service to their home, not just their postcode, which can often be inaccurate”.

Economic boost

Neighboring properties might be linked to different exchanges, or one might be connected to cable broadband while the other might not be, resulting in differing speeds, the LGA said.

The proposed rules would allow communications regulator Ofcom to force companies to “publish any information held by the provider”.

The government said the bill is intended to bolster the UK’s competitive economic position.

“We want everyone to have access to high speed broadband as part of our commitment to building a stronger, more connected economy,” stated digital and culture minister Matt Hancock.

The draft bill also includes measures such as a universal service obligation of broadband speeds of at least 10Mbps, an age-verification scheme for online porn publishers and steeper penalties for nuisance callers.

The proposed universal service obligation has proven controversial with Internet service providers, who have said it could lead to higher costs and network duplication.

Do you know all about public sector IT – the triumph and the tragedy? Take our quiz!