Internet

"Fast broadband" will be a legal right for homes and businesses by 2020, the government has pledged.

A "universal service obligation" will give the public and businesses a legal right to expect affordable broadband. The law will put fast broadband in the same bracket as utilities like water and electricity.

In 2012, then-Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt defined high-speed broadband as download speeds of greater than 24Mbps, but Ofcom defines it as 30Mbps.

The government's latest pledge will mean homes and businesses across the country will have access to at least 10Mbps.

According to Ofcom , 83% of homes and businesses have access to high-speed broadband - a figure that is expected to rise to 97% by 2017.

Announcing the pledge, Prime Minister David Cameron said: "Access to the internet shouldn't be a luxury, it should be a right - absolutely fundamental to life in 21st Century Britain.

"Just as our forebears effectively brought gas, electricity and water to all, we're going to bring fast broadband to every home and business that wants it.

"We're getting Britain - all of Britain - online, and on the way to becoming the most prosperous economy in the whole of Europe."

John Cridland, CBI Director-General, said: “Putting an end to the digital divide will be a shot in the arm for regional growth.

“For businesses today, high quality digital connectivity is as crucial to growth and productivity as roads, railways and airports. So the Government’s commitment to continually raise the bar with this new universal service obligation of 10Mbps will be welcomed by businesses around the UK."

John Allan, national chairman for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: “Our members will be encouraged by this Government pledge to give businesses across the country guaranteed access to a fit-for-purpose broadband connection. The FSB has long called for a Universal Service Obligation of 10Mbps and is pleased to see the Government setting this as a minimum broadband speed.”

“Recent FSB research found that 99% of small firms rate the internet as highly important to their business. But our members say the service they get often falls short of what they need or have been told to expect. Giving all businesses the opportunity for better broadband access should create more jobs and provide a boost to productivity”.