About broadband universal service
We’re working with Ofcom, the independent communications regulator, to deliver a new initiative called broadband universal service.
It’s a piece of government legislation that gives eligible addresses the right to request a decent and affordable broadband connection.
If your address is eligible, we can upgrade your local network so you can order faster broadband.
What is a decent connection?
A decent connection is one that can deliver a download speed of at least 10Mb and an upload speed of at least 1Mb. Affordable means it doesn’t cost more than £46.10 a month. Most people will be able to choose a service costing much less than this though.
Why were these minimum speeds chosen?
The minimum speed was set by the Government in March 2018. Ofcom research shows that 10Mb is the minimum speed currently needed to meet an average household’s digital needs. It should be fast enough for multiple people in a household to be online at once.
Who is eligible?
You’ll be able to request a network upgrade for a home or business if:
We’ll be writing to everyone we think may be eligible. You can also check your postcode at bt.com/uso.
Will I need to pay anything?
It depends on how much the work to upgrade your local network to serve your address will cost. If the total cost is £3,400 (exclusive of VAT) or less, you won’t have to pay for the work to be done.
If it’s higher than that, you can still get a connection as long as you’re eligible but you’ll need to pay the excess cost. If this happens we’ll provide a quote so you can decide what to do.
What determines the cost of upgrading a network?
There are lots of factors that can increase the cost of building a network to an address. They can include things like the distance from the nearest telephone exchange and challenging environment such as rivers and underground caves. We may agree that you can do some of the work yourself to help bring the costs down. For example, digging the trenches to lay fibre optic cables.
To make sure we minimise the cost when we assess the cost we take into account how some of the new network could also be used to reach other eligible properties nearby.
I've used a speed checker and it says my speed is below 10Mb. Why aren’t I eligible for an upgraded connection?
The speed you get to your home or business can depend on things like how many people in your area are online. It can vary throughout the day and be slower at busy times. Things like the quality of wiring in buildings also makes a difference to speeds.
The way your hub and devices are set up in your home matters too. If you’re connecting over wi-fi, you’ll experience slower speeds than if you’re using an Ethernet cable.
Most online speed tests measure speed from your hub to the device you’re doing the speed test on. The test we use for universal service connections is from your local exchange to your hub, otherwise known as sync speed.
If we find your existing connection can deliver download speeds of 10Mb or faster, you won’t be eligible for an upgraded broadband universal service connection, even if you get a slower speed at times.
How do I request an upgrade to my local network?
You can request a network build through our dedicated help desk from 20 March 2020. Once you request a universal service connection, we’ll confirm whether your address is eligible. This includes letting you know whether the estimated cost of building the necessary network will be less than the £3,400 (exclusive of VAT) threshold. This may take 30 days. After this, we’ll be able to start planning the work.
If the estimated cost is more than £3,400 (exclusive of VAT), we can carry out a full survey and give you a detailed, final quote. This may take 60 days. If you’re happy to pay the quoted costs, then we can start planning the work once we’ve received your payment. You’ll have 30 days to change your mind, after that the payment is non-refundable except in accordance with the broadband universal service terms and conditions.
What happens if I change my mind or I move during the network build?
Within 30 days after paying the excess costs, you can cancel your order without giving us a reason and we’ll provide you with a full refund. After this, costs are non-refundable (except as set out in the universal service terms and conditions) and we may rely on the costs you’ve paid to start building the network.
Before deciding whether to pay for a build for your address, you should think carefully about whether you’re likely to move home in the next 24 months. We’ll only provide the connection to the address on the original order. It won’t be transferable to another address.
Can I request a network build for a static caravan or houseboat?
Yes, as long as it’s in a fixed location and is either a home or a business. It’ll need to meet the other criteria as well. When you place your request we might ask for evidence, such as a copy of your council tax bill if it’s your home, or your business rates bill if it’s a business.
How long does building a network take?
We aim to deliver every network build as quickly as possible – ideally within 12 months – however, it may take up to 24 months for some, or longer in exceptional cases. Some upgrades will take longer than others but we’ll let you know how long we expect it to take early in the process.
On rare occasions, delays will occur due to circumstances outside of our control. For example, it could take us longer than we thought to get permission to close roads, we might not be able to lay our cables or underground duct routes where we need to due to obstacles, or we might come across archaeology or a protected wildlife species. If this happens we’ll keep you updated.
If the build will take longer than 24 months, or in the exceptional circumstances that we’re unable to complete the network upgrade, we’ll let you know.
How is this different to previous broadband rollout schemes?
Rollout schemes usually involve extending broadband networks to meet anticipated demand by homes and businesses. Other schemes have restrictions on eligibility such as needing a school in the area to be connected. Under the broadband universal service scheme however, all eligible homes and businesses which cannot already get broadband meeting the minimum standard can request an upgraded connection.
If you’re in an area where there is another service or a publicly funded rollout scheme within the next 12 months, your address won’t be eligible for a network build.
Using Openreach’s Community Fibre Partnership programme could be an alternative route to upgrade your area’s broadband network. This is outside of the broadband universal service scheme. It supports the local community to come together to share the costs of an upgrade.
Where can I find more information?
Check out bt.com/uso for more information. Use the postcode checker to find out what solutions are already available to you and if you could be eligible for a universal service connection. If we think you're eligible, you'll be directed to call our dedicated universal service help desk to confirm. You can also find out more on Ofcom’s broadband universal service help page.