Over the past decade, the UK government has attempted to lock in a basic level of broadband service across Britain. The idea is that by 2020, members of the public will have the legal right to request speeds of at least 10 Mbps from their ISP, whether they happen to live in a big city or in the countryside. It's all part of the government's Universal Service Obligation (USO), which was laid out in the Digital Economy Act passed earlier this year.
Ministers originally considered adopting BT's voluntary offer, which would have seen it spend up to £600 million giving 1.4 million rural residents access to speeds of at least 10 Mbps. However, in a statement today, the government confirmed that it now will go down the regulatory route as it provides "sufficient certainty and the legal enforceability that is required to ensure high speed broadband access for the whole of the UK by 2020."