BT has submitted a proposal to the government offering to provide the infrastructure to bring high-speed broadband to 99% of UK premises by 2020.
The plan would help 1.4 million homes in rural areas gain access to broadband with a minimum speed of 10Mb by 2020. BT's offer has the potential to disrupt government-imposed rules which allow those living in remote areas to demand broadband.
The universal service obligation (USO) was designed to help remote households get fast broadband more quickly, but if the government presses on with BT's £600m proposal then it would be rendered unnecessary.
About 1.4 million households currently cannot get speeds above 10Mb per-second, according to Ofcom. For now the government is continuing with its own regulatory approach while consulting on BT's offer.
“We warmly welcome BT’s offer and now will look at whether this or a regulatory approach works better for homes and businesses,” said the culture secretary Karen Bradley in a statement. “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.”
If the government does press ahead with BT's suggestion then it's estimated that the rollout would cost between £450m to £600m and would for most part be delivered by its spun-off network firm Openreach. The bill would come at no cost to the taxpayer, with BT instead proposing to fund the project through higher charges to rivals such as Sky and TalkTalk, as well as BT’s own broadband unit, to use Openreach’s national network.
"Our latest initiative aims to ensure that all UK premises can get faster broadband, even in the hardest to reach parts of the UK," said BT chief executive Gavin Patterson.