Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney has asked the UK government to implement a Universal Service Obligation (USO) for broadband services.
Swinney has written to Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey calling for the introduction of a specific broadband obligation, ensuring everyone in Scotland can access affordable, high-speed broadband.
Every property in the UK is currently entitled to a telephone line via a telecoms USO but this does not cover the provision of Internet services.
The Deputy First Minister believes a broadband USO that works alongside significant Scottish government investments would help to address the digital divide.
“The Scottish government has set an ambitious digital policy agenda aimed at ensuring that all of Scotland can access world class digital connectivity by 2020 and we are taking forward a range of activity and investment to deliver this,” claimed Swinney.
“Broadband is something that everyone in Scotland should have access to – it’s a vital service in today’s world. That is why I am pressing the UK government to introduce a broadband USO which would set out access as an entitlement.
Finland, Malta and Spain have already implemented USOs for broadband with an appropriate speed requirement.
According to Swinney, following the steps of these countries will ensure no one is excluded from the benefits of Internet access.
Via the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme, Scotland is already investment £410m to extend fibre broadband infrastructure to areas where the market would not otherwise go.
The project aims to see 95% of business and home premises across the country to have access to fibre broadband by the end of 2017.
“We should make more use of regulatory levels such as USOs, alongside the substantial investment the public sector has made in digital infrastructure in recent years, to ensure access for all and to maintain a competitive environment,” Swinney claimed.
“Ofcom’s forthcoming Strategic Review of Digital Communications will be an opportunity to consider how best to do this and the Scottish government looks forward to working with the UK government and Ofcom as part of the new enhanced role recommended by the Smith Commission.
“I believe that broadband USO could make an important contribution to our digital ambitions for Scotland and I call on the UK government to take to this forward,” he added.