BT Agrees to Infuse £600 Million into Rural Broadband

While the UK enjoys a fairly decent level of broadband coverage, there are still plenty of people struggling with relatively slow connections. It's a problem that's particularly common in rural areas, and BT has offered to stump up £600 million to ensure that more rural homes have decent connections by 2020.

The UK government had already indicated that it wants every home in the country to have access to an internet connection of at least 10Mbps and plans to introduce rules that will permit customers to "demand" such speeds. BT's investment -- through its Openreach subsidiary -- would bring 10Mbps+ connections to a further 1.4 million rural homes, and would eliminate the need for new rules from the government.

The government's proposals for "right to demand broadband" would only kick in in 2020, meaning that it will be much later before customers actually see the benefit of faster internet connections. BT's proposal would mean that the same customers would feel the results of the investment by 2020.

By investing £600 million in infrastructure, BT would be able to provide 10Mbps+ connections to 99 percent of the UK. By 2022, this coverage would be "universal". The figure of 10Mbps was suggested by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport as a speed that would "meet the typical needs of a family."

But while the investment sounds like good news, it does come at a cost. BT would fund the project through raising the bills of its customers, as well as competing ISPs that make use of BT equipment. Critics, such as shadow culture secretary Tom Watson, say not only is the target of 10Mbps too low, particularly for businesses, and that it is unfair for customers to be expected to pay for improvements to BT's infrastructure.

More positively, Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said:

We warmly welcome BT's offer and now will look at whether this or a regulatory approach works better for homes and businesses. 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.