UK parliament says treat Web like public utility

A report in the United Kingdom’s parliament is calling for the government to regulate broadband Internet service like a public utility.

“This is the bedrock of digital competitiveness,” the House of Lords’ select committee on digital skills said in a report outlining a “digital agenda.”

The growing necessity of the Web in everyday life “will require universal access to the Internet to engage with vital public and personal services,” it said.

“That is why we conclude that the government should define the Internet as a utility service, available for all to access and use.”

The recommendation is one of many policy proposals to speed up U.K. fluency with the Web, alongside efforts to roll out new infrastructure, beef up cyber defenses and foster more digital education.

While the report does not mention the phrase “net neutrality” or refer to U.S. efforts to regulate broadband access, the conclusion does seem to mirror the spirit of that stateside debate and the belief that the government needs to do more to make every corner of the Web accessible to the public.

In the U.S., the Federal Communications Commission will next week vote to apply to Web service some regulations used to regulate utility services such as phone lines. Critics have warned that the plan will stifle innovation and lead to higher prices for Web users.

U.K. Web speeds are relatively close to those in the U.S. According to Ookla, a Web performance analysis company, average household download speeds in the U.K. are 29.55 Megabits per second (Mbps), compared to 33.09 in the U.S.