LONDON (AFP) - Every home in Britain will be guaranteed access to broadband Internet under plans unveiled by the government on Thursday, which put the technology on a par with telephones as an essential service.
"We are developing plans to move towards an historic universal service commitment for broadband and digital services," Culture Secretary Andy Burnham told lawmakers in the House of Commons.
Universal service obligations (USOs) were used in 1840 to guarantee postal services across Britain, and in 1984 to ensure everyone had access to a phone.
The plan to give every household broadband access by the 2012 Olympic Games in London is part of a new strategy, which includes upgrading radio from analogue to digital, to ensure Britain's future in a digital age.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown said digital technology would be as important to Britain's prosperity in the 21st economy as "roads, bridges, trains and electricity were in the 20th century."
However, the main opposition Conservatives criticised the lack of detail and plans for action in the strategy and asked who would pay for the new services.
"Expressing a sentiment is fine, but without a road map for delivery it is surely a totally empty promise," said their culture spokesman, Jeremy Hunt.
A final report outlining the strategy in more detail is due later this year.