Broadband users throughout the UK previously forced to put up with slow connection speeds received a boost in yesterday's Queen's Speech in the form of plans to introduce the legal right to a "fast broadband connection".
Proposals to introduce a new 'Broadband Universal Service Obligation' under the Digital Economy Bill would guarantee all consumer and business broadband users a 'fast connection', which the Government would expect to be a minimum speed of 10Mbps (megabits per second).
But no timeframe has yet been mentioned in terms of when this is likely to come into effect.
To put this into perspective, the recommended broadband connection speed for standard definition Netflix, the online film and TV service, is 3Mbps, while for high definition Netflix it's 5Mbps. Latest Ofcom figures show the average UK broadband speed reached 28.9Mbps in November 2015 – 6.1Mbps faster than the previous year.
The bill (which will need pass through a parliamentary process to become an act before it's made law) seeks to also grant additional powers to telecoms regulator Ofcom to provide automatic compensation for broadband users who face outages, as well as improve switching processes for consumers.
New rules on building broadband and mobile network infrastructure would boost coverage, while communications firms may be required to publish data on service and speed that may be of interest to broadband users.
Legal right to a 'fast broadband connection'
Under the proposed Broadband Universal Service Obligation, the Government expects a minimum speed of 10Mbps to be provided to all broadband users, though Ofcom may have the power to review this figure over time to ensure it remains "sufficient for modern life".
It was also proposed that the "very remotest properties" may be expected to contribute to the cost of installation for superfast broadband services.
The announcement comes after the Government said it was halting automatic broadband roll-out in rural areas of the country after deciding it would be too costly.
Automatic compensation for loss of broadband service
Ofcom first set out plans to introduce automatic compensation for broadband users who suffer a loss in service in its Strategic Review of Digital Communications in February. The new bill would provide powers to do this.
Currently, users have to lodge a formal complaint with their broadband provider, which they must then escalate to the Ombudsman after eight weeks if they can't come to an agreement – with no guarantee they'll get any compensation.
There are no details yet on how the new rules may work though, with the plans to be consulted by Ofcom.
If you're experiencing issues complaining to your provider, see our Resolver guide for more information about the free complaints tool.
The bill also aims to make switching easier and Ofcom may require all firms to coordinate switches on behalf of customers, as is already the case for those switching broadband providers within the BT Openreach network. This could mean mobile customers may benefit from only having to deal with their new provider when signing up to a new contract.
Providers may also be asked to publish data about customer complaints and broadband speeds, to make consumers more informed when making choices about which provider or package to go with, and to promote competition.
Improved mobile and broadband coverage
A new Electronic Communications Code is designed to simplify and reduce the cost of building mobile phone masts and installing superfast broadband cables.
It's hoped this will lead to improved coverage across the country, particularly when it comes to erecting masts, which can be particularly costly in rural areas.
This follows Ofcom's strategy to promote the roll-out of new ultrafast broadband networks and increase indoor 4G coverage to 98% of the UK by the end of 2017.