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How the UK's new broadband law will benefit contractors

Paystream News

Michelle Derungs

Friday 19th May, 2017

The UK government has been given the go ahead to introduce a new broadband law that will force telecoms companies to roll out acceptable internet to homes and businesses in rural parts of the country.

Work has been taking place over the past few years to deliver fibre broadband to the whole of the UK, with the minimum download speed that is seen as acceptable coming in at 10Mbps.

However, five per cent of the nation - equivalent to 1.4 million premises - is yet to receive a connection of this speed, largely due to the fact some homes are in a remote location.

Yet this is now set to change with the introduction of the new broadband rules, meaning it will be easier for people in rural locations to work from home and perform other online tasks. It will also mean that access to decent broadband becomes a right for people living in the UK, which is an admittance that we cannot live without technology.

Indeed, when the proposed introduction of the universal service obligation was first announced in late 2015, then Prime Minister David Cameron stated: "Access to the internet shouldn't be a luxury; it should be a right - absolutely fundamental to life in 21st century Britain."

So how exactly will bringing better broadband to rural areas benefit the UK's limited company contractors?

Easier to work from home

Broadband speeds of 10Mbps are seen as the minimum acceptable level for people to be able to stream or download digital media, which is essential for people who want to work from home.

Limited company contractors and freelancers need to be able to perform online activities such as filling out self-assessment tax returns via the HMRC portal, sending emails and large portfolio files to prospective clients and potentially taking part in video conference calls.

These are all basic requirements for limited company contractors, but if their broadband connections are not fast enough, these tasks can be made significantly harder, if not altogether impossible.

According to Ofcom's Connected Nations 2016 report, there are 600,000 homes in the UK whose internet cannot go above 5Mbps and a further 250,000 where speeds cannot exceed 2Mbps. Contracting and the benefit of flexible working is becoming increasingly popular, but these poor speeds make it impossible for some people to work remotely.

At the time of the report's release, Ofcom Group Director Steve Unger commented: "Too many people and businesses are still struggling for a good service. We think that is unacceptable, so we're challenging mobile operators to go beyond built-up areas and provide coverage across the UK's countryside and transport networks."

The new universal service obligation from the UK government is intended to go some way in resolving these issues. By providing everyone in the country with broadband access that comes in at a minimum of 10Mbps, tasks such as filling out digital forms and joining Skype calls with clients should be made easier and stress-free.

What's more, there is talk of the legislation changing slightly in the future as the broadband market evolves. It has been suggested that when 75 per cent or more of households in the UK are using broadband of 30Mbps or faster, then the minimum legal requirement could potentially also be upped to this speed.

New opportunities for contractors in telecoms

Not only will improved broadband access make it easier for personal service company contractors to work from home, it will also create new work opportunities for those with certain skillsets.

Rolling out fast fibre broadband to over one million more properties will require skilled and experienced telecoms engineers, so contractors who work in this field can expect to find themselves in higher demand.

Some travel to remote parts of the country is likely to be required, so contractors with their own transport or a commercial driving licence will be particularly coveted for available roles.

The skills shortage continues to cause hiring challenges across many UK sectors, meaning this is likely to also be the case when it comes to finding workers to fill these telecoms positions. As a result, contractors need to make sure they are being proactive and demonstrating the value they can add to organisations and to consumers by helping to connect them to better broadband.

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