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Conservative Party Manifesto 2015 – The Broadband Delivery UK Way

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015 (12:29 pm) - Score 2,927
conservative party uk

The UK Conservative Party have today joined Labour and the Greens to publish their Manifesto for the 2015 General Election, although you won’t find many surprises inside because, as the dominant party of Government, their policy towards broadband will naturally follow the existing Broadband Delivery UK programme.

As stated before, ISPreview.co.uk remains a broadly political neutral website and over the past 16 years we’ve been just as happy to praise, as well as criticise, the failings of both past and present Government’s with equal measure. In that sense we tend to judge political policies by how detailed, practical and economically viable they are, but we’ll avoid saying X is better than Z (that’s for you to judge).

One of the things that the Conservatives did right at the last general election was to thrash out a clear pledge, which promised to scrap Labour’s already somewhat shelved 50p +vat phone line tax, force BT and other infrastructure providers to open their cable ducts (this did happen with PIA, but it excluded business use) and then use part of the BBCs TV Licence fee to fund a wider “superfast broadband” roll-out (here).

The above proposals eventually morphed into the current BT dominated Broadband Delivery UK programme, which is a public and private partnership that aims to make fixed line superfast broadband (24Mbps+) speeds available to 95% of the country by the end of 2017 and a plan to reach 100% is still being designed.

On top of that there have also been various other policies to improve mobile coverage and business connectivity. In that sense we already know that a Conservative government would continue along exactly the same path (see below) and of course the advantage of being the current party of Government (unless you’re perceived to have cocked it up) means that they’re the only ones able to detail what they’ve done and plan to do going forwards.

David Cameron, PM and UK Conservative Party Leader, said today:

We will deliver the next generation of UK infrastructure: more roads and broadband, High Speed 2 and rail improvements across the nation.

You asked that while we got Britain back living within her means, we should invest in the things that really matter.. science, superfast broadband, our railways and roads. 40,000 homes and business connected to superfast broadband every week.”

In case anybody needs a refresher, the current commitments and policy position remain the same as they were during the recent Budget 2015 announcement.

Key Broadband Commitments from the Current BDUK / Budget 2015

* Provide superfast broadband coverage to 90% of the UK by 2016, extending to 95% by 2017.

* Provide basic broadband (2Mbps) for all by 2016.
* Explore options to get near universal superfast broadband coverage across the UK by 2018.
* Improve public WiFi coverage in various UK cities.
* Offer Connection Vouchers (worth up to £3,000) to 50 cities and surrounding areas in order to help businesses install superfast broadband.
* Support the private sector in making 100Mbps+ “ultrafast” broadband “available to nearly all UK premises“.
* Review the potential for adjusting the current Universal Service Obligation to include a 5Mbps broadband speed requirement.
* Subsidising the costs of installing superfast capable satellite services to rural areas (most likely the final 1-2%).
* Provide up to £600 million to support the delivery of the change of use of 700MHz spectrum to further enhance the UK’s Mobile Broadband connectivity.
* Extend the geographic coverage of 2G (voice and text) networks from 80% today to 90% by 2017 (the target for 3G and 4G is 85%).
* Extend 4G population coverage to 98% of premises (indoors) across the UK by 2017.
* Support the on-going development of future 5G mobile technology.

At this point we’d normally diagnose the pros and cons of the Government’s approach, but that would make for an extensive article (we’ve already done plenty of articles on the issues) and might also risk nudging us away from a position of political neutrality during the campaign window. Instead we’ll leave it up to our readers to make the final judgement about what has and has not worked so well.

The Conservative Manifesto 2015 effectively supports all of the above commitments and also says the party wants to “give us the most comprehensive and cheapest superfast broadband coverage of any major European country“, which is a bit different from the old “fastest broadband of any major European country by 2015” line (here).

In addition, the manifesto promises to “provide rural Britain with near universal superfast broadband by the end of the next Parliament [2020]“. We note the word “near“, meaning not quite 100% coverage and that’s perhaps partly a reflection of the desire to subsidise Satellite for the final 1-2%.

Interestingly the manifesto also commits to a continuation of “[top slicing] the [BBC TV] licence fee for digital infrastructure to support superfast broadband across the country“, which is where most of the public Government funding came from to support Phase 1 and 2 of the BDUK programme until the end of 2017 (around £800m). This hints that they might adopt a similar approach between 2018 and 2020, which could free another £300 million or so to fix the final 3-5%.

In any case we’ll have to wait and see who wins the election in order to know what direction the country eventually takes post-2015, although the BDUK programme will most likely continue to run its current course no matter who takes power (most of the contracts are already signed and to reverse those could create delays).

UPDATE 17th April 2015

One of our readers has reminded us about the £40bn UK Guarantees Scheme, which works by providing a sovereign-backed guarantee to help projects access finance. It’s not strictly a broadband “commitment” as such, although it is being used to help Virgin Media’s commercial deployment of superfast cable broadband and BT might also benefit in the future.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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4 Responses
  1. Avatar timeless

    l remember Camerons promise of “no top down reorganisation of the NHS” if ppl think he can keep any promise they must be smoking wacky backy!!!

  2. You have left out use of the 40 billion Infrastructure Investment Guarantee fund to underwrite upgrades and roll-out. The Digital Communications Infrastructure Strategy stated that this had been used for the Virgin Media 3 billion extension and invited others to apply. You might also have mentioned the long-overdue Ofcom market review and the investigations into Business broadband: first actions of the new team at the top. Also the Manifesto mentions support for action on 5G standards!

    • Hi Philip, right at the bottom it says: “Support the on-going development of future 5G mobile technology,” which is a general catch-all since we’re just doing a short summary here and not a lengthy analysis. No need for the exclamation mark at the end, unless your intention is to rudely shout in my face.

      Also the Ofcom reviews would have happened anyway, they aren’t strictly party-specific policy and occur every so often regardless of who is in power. As such they have no real place here.

      Good point about the UK Guarantee Fund though; I’ll add that, although it’s not strictly a broadband commitment and spans many other sectors. Plenty of things can be used to help broadband, but that’s a bit different from specific manifesto pledges for coverage and performance.

  3. Avatar Stan

    Please add my Email address to mailing list. Thanks

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