Every home in the UK will have the legal right to request access to a fast and affordable broadband connection from next year, under a new Ofcom scheme.
The scheme will benefit around 620,000 homes and offices which are based in some of the most remote locations in the country.
A 'universal broadband service'
Ofcom (the UK's communications regulator) has selected BT and KCOM as its Universal Service Obligation providers, giving them until March next year to make the necessary preparations.
The 'universal broadband service' will give eligible homes and businesses the legal right to a broadband connection that delivers download speeds of at least 10Mbps, and upload speeds of at least 1Mbps. Ofcom said these speeds are subject to review as data use changes over time.
BT will be responsible for connecting properties in the whole of the UK, except in the Hull area, where KCOM will be the designated provider.
"We have given BT and KCOM until 20 March next year to make the necessary preparations, including changes to their systems and processes, to start building these connections," said Ofcom.
"From that date, people can start making requests."
How will the scheme work?
From March 20 next year, customers will be able to make a request to see if they are eligible for the fast broadband service.
BT or KCOM will then have 30 days from when a request is submitted to confirm whether or not a customer is eligible.
This will involve establishing whether the property already has access to a decent broadband service at an affordable price, or if it is due to be connected by a publicly-funded scheme within 12 months.
Once a customer is confirmed as eligible, the providers must deliver the broadband connection as quickly as possible.
Will the service be free?
Under the legislation for the new service, the cost of providing connections to eligible homes will be paid for up to £3,400.
If the required work costs more than this, customers can either pay the additional costs or opt for an alternative solution outside of the universal service, such as satellite broadband.
All customers who are connected through the new universal broadband service will pay the same price as other broadband customers who have an equivalent connection.