UK's minimum Net speed creeps up

Oftel, the UK telecoms regulator, has raised the threshold for Internet access speeds, claiming a victory for consumers. But will anyone really benefit?
Written by Graeme Wearden, Contributor

At a time when pressure is building on telecoms operators, regulators and the government over the growing broadband divide, Oftel has raised the minimum Internet access speed that BT must provide to its customers to 28.8Kbps -- just one twentieth of the speed of a basic broadband connection.

Previously, the telco was forced only to provide Web access at a glacial 2.4Kbps.

Oftel says the move is good news for some consumers, but many people who are desperate for high-speed Internet access and can't get it are unlikely to be satisfied by the move.

At 28.8Kbps, the new obligation is only around half the speed of most narrowband modems, which typically have a theoretical maximum speed of 56Kbps but deliver closer to 40Kbps.

The regulator announced on Wednesday that it is extending the universal service obligations that BT, and Hull's Kingston Communication, must abide by.

As well as making sure all customers can get Internet access of at least 28.8Kbps, the telcos must also continue to provide reduced-rate packages for customers on low incomes and make public phone boxes available.

"Because of the growing importance of the Internet, Oftel has taken a major step forward in setting a benchmark connection speed of 28.8 Kbps," said David Edmonds, Oftel's director general, in a statement.

"This is significantly faster than the previous requirement of only 2.4 Kbps and will lead to real improvements in connection speeds for many consumers," Edmonds claimed.

The new universal service obligations will come into effect on 25 July.

For a round-up of the latest on ISPs, broadband and related issues, see the Telecoms News Section.

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