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ISPA Says UK Political Parties Need “More Ambitious” Broadband Policies

Friday, April 17th, 2015 (4:45 pm) - Score 408
internet service providers association uk

The Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) has given its verdict on the 2015 General Election Manifestos of the three main political parties. Broadly speaking the trade association welcomes many of the proposals, but they also caution against increased net surveillance and call for a “more ambitious” aim to deliver “ubiquitous superfast broadband“.

So far this week we’ve seen virtually all of the major and minor political parties release manifestos ahead of next month’s General Election and ISPreview.co.uk has carried a short summary of all the key broadband connectivity focused points from each: Green (here), Libdem (here), Labour (here), UKIP (here) Conservative (here) and all the rest (here).

The majority of the parties have tended to make vague commitments towards improving broadband coverage, although most of those lack detail and use ambiguous wording like “high-speed” instead of identifying specific service speeds and targets by which they could tangibly be judged.

As such the broad indication appears geared towards supporting a continuation of the current Broadband Delivery UK programme, although the ISPA believes that they could all do better.

Nicholas Lansman, ISPA Secretary General, said:

The UK internet industry is a success story and all parties need to be more ambitious and recognise the crucial role the internet plays in society and the economy. What industry needs from the next Government is an ambitious, clear and detailed vision for the Internet and communications sector.”

In its response the ISPA has also outlined a number of areas where they feel improvements could be made, which we’ve listed below.

Broadband

* Overall, ISPA welcomes the parties’ recognition of the importance of broadband investment and continued support for superfast rollout. However all parties should be more ambitious and aim for ubiquitous superfast broadband, with targeted investment and incentives for a competitive private sector to continue to innovate and develop their networks.

* Whilst we welcome all main parties’ promises of affordable and widespread access to the Internet, ISPA cautions against commitments to treat broadband as a basic utility if this comes with unnecessary and burdensome regulations.

* As welcome as the broadband commitments are, given the importance of the communications sector, parties should also craft a vision around what this infrastructure could be used for.

Surveillance and communications data

* As expected, the Conservatives intend to introduce new legislation to give the security services more access to communications data with additional safeguards. Labour promise similar; the Liberal Democrats offer a different vision in setting stricter limits on surveillance.

* ISPA welcomes original thinking on Internet policy as seen in the Liberal Democrats Digital Bill of Rights, which puts more limits on surveillance and acknowledges that public confidence in the Internet risks being undermined by excessive obligations and underlines the importance of encryption many online services rely on.

* Whilst law enforcement should have reasonable access to data, this should only be after a rigorous parliamentary debate with input from industry and civil society that strengthens oversight and based on the grounds of proportionality and necessity.

Content

* ISPA supports the principle of limiting underage access to adult content by website owners, however the Conservatives announcements on blocking and age verification leave a number of unanswered questions on implementation.

* The Liberal Democrats make a number of interesting proposals on content, such as safeguarding the freedom of the Internet, though questions remain over implementation. Labour have not set out policies for online content, and we call on them to share their overall vision for the sector.

* The UK is one of Europe’s most digitally-enabled societies and economies, therefore parties should follow a regulatory regime that works and follow policies that respect intermediary liability and support industry to continue to provide innovative services.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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