To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what assessment his Department made of the affordability of quoted excess costs for consumers who have requested a universal service connection in Dwyfor Merionnydd since January 2020.
13 April 2021
The Department is aware that some BT quotations for connection under the Universal Service Obligation (USO) are significantly above the Reasonable Cost Threshold of £3,400 per premise. In September 2020, I wrote to Ofcom’s Chief Executive, Dame Melanie Dawes to outline my concerns with some of the quotes and how BT was aggregating demand from USO eligible premises.
In October 2020, Ofcom opened an investigation into BT’s compliance with its obligations as a Universal Service Provider. In January 2021, Ofcom issued a statement, stating that they had completed their initial information gathering, would be gathering additional evidence and expected to provide an update by the end of March.
Alongside the USO, the government is investing £5 billion to deliver gigabit-capable broadband to the hardest to reach 20% of premises in the UK. The government recognises that the UK has some very remote places - around 0.3% of the country or less than 100,000 premises - that may be too expensive to build a gigabit-capable broadband network to, even with substantial public subsidy. These premises are also likely to be significantly above the USO’s Reasonable Cost Threshold. On 19 March, the government launched a call for evidence to explore the barriers to improving the broadband of these premises and how innovative new technologies could help.