Broadband becomes the fourth utility

Amy Adams (Getty)
Amy Adams (Getty)

The basic services we count on -- water, gas and electricity -- have now been joined by a fourth: broadband.

Communications Minister Amy Adams has announced a series of decisions on how broadband is to be regulated in the future, because the current system doesn't take into account the uptake of fibre by consumers.

The Government is also looking at ways to support competition in the mobile phone market. This could include regulating prices charged for national roaming services.

"To help reach our 2025 broadband target and to keep our economy growing, we need the right laws in place to make sure high quality and affordable communication services are available for consumers and businesses," says Ms Adams.

It means both fibre and copper broadband services will be regulated in a similar way to electricity.

Fibre and copper lines company Chorus has welcomed the decision, saying the Government has effectively recognised broadband as the fourth utility, alongside water gas and electricity.

The Government says there will be no sudden increase in prices for so-called "anchor" products  like basic phone and broadband services.

It will also consider whether national roaming charges on mobile phones should be regulated.

Consumers and industry will have a chance to feedback on the proposals later this year, with the new regulations coming into force from 2020.