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2017 Conservative Party Manifesto is Short on Surprises for Broadband

Thursday, May 18th, 2017 (12:33 pm) by Mark Jackson (Score 1,471)
conservative party uk

The Conservative Party has today joined Labour (here) and the Liberal Democrats (here) by publishing their own Manifesto for the 2017 UK General Election, although anybody looking for PM Theresa May to surprise us with a set of bold new pledges for broadband and mobile will be disappointed.

As the current party of Government we already know more or less everything about the Conservative’s broadband policy, which is currently working via Broadband Delivery UK to make fixed line “superfast broadband” (24Mbps+) speeds available to around 97% of UK premises by 2020 and pushing for a 10Mbps Universal Service Obligation (USO) to help tackle those in the final 3%.

On top of that they’ve recently committed £600m to boost “full fibre” (FTTP/H) deployments, aim to support future 5G mobile services and have introduced 100% business rates relief on new full-fibre infrastructure for a 5 year period; the latter is somewhat of a catch-22 because the relief doesn’t apply to existing infrastructure. All of this and more was summarised as part of the Budget 2017 (click for details) announcement.

Unsurprisingly this means that today’s Manifesto doesn’t offer any major surprises for digital infrastructure and merely rewrites much of what the Government has already promised, as well as a few things that we’d expect the private sector to achieve on its own (e.g. 5G for most of the population by 2027).

2017 Conservative Manifesto – Broadband and Mobile Pledges

We will deliver the infrastructure – the road, rail, airports and broadband – that businesses need.

We will make doing business online easier for companies and consumers. We will give businesses the right to insist on a digital signature and the right to digital cancellation of contracts. We will oblige all digital companies to provide digital receipts, clearer terms and conditions when selling goods and services online and support new digital proofs of identification. We will give consumers the same protections in online markets as they have on the high street. For broadband customers, we will make broadband switching easier and pricing more transparent.

We will ensure that consumers and businesses have access to the digital infrastructure they need to succeed. By the end of this year, 19 out of 20 premises will have access to superfast broadband and our Universal Service Obligation will ensure that by 2020 every home and every business in Britain has access to high speed broadband. We will work to provide gigaspeed connectivity to as many businesses and homes as possible. We will introduce a full fibre connection voucher for companies across the country by 2018 and by 2022 we will have major fibre spines in over a hundred towns and cities, with ten million premises connected to full fibre and a clear path to national coverage over the next decade.

We have similar ambitions for mobile phone coverage. By 2022 we will extend mobile coverage further to 95 per cent geographic coverage of the UK. By the same date, all major roads and main line trains will enjoy full and uninterrupted mobile phone signal, alongside guaranteed WiFi internet service on all such trains. We will continue to release more spectrum from public sector use to allow greater private sector access and begin the roll-out of a new 5G network, providing gigaspeed connection to your smart phone. We plan to have the majority of the population covered by a 5G signal by 2027.

Suffice to say that we’re a little disappointed as the party has once again missed a golden opportunity to make a solid commitment towards delivering universal coverage of superfast broadband, which is something that both Labour and the LibDems have proposed (both by 2022); that’s not even hugely radical, unless it’s done as a legally-binding USO. Most other EU countries have already made a commitment to 100% coverage (here).

On the other hand the Conservative’s will no doubt feel as if their approach is economically prudent, particularly at a time of increasingly harsh austerity, and they’ll perhaps be hoping that the electorate will be pleased with the progress that has been made on broadband connectivity over the past few years. The side mention of 10 million “full fibre” premises does perk our ears but the private sector may already be getting close to this by 2022.

Elsewhere it’s no surprise to find that they’re also pushing for tougher rules to tackle online bullying and “horrific content,” which always sounds fair on the surface but often ends up overlooking the realities of how the internet / ISPs actually work and human behaviour. The language used is very generalised and so we’ll need to see some more detail before being able to judge.

Lest we forget that they also pushed through (with Labour’s support) the somewhat controversial Investigatory Powers Act (IPAct), which requires UK ISPs to snoop on the Internet activity (not content) of all their customers and store that data for a year (here and here).

As we’ve said before, you should always take any political pledges, from any party, with a big pinch of salt. Mind you it’s always easier to judge such things when the party concerned is currently holding office.

What do you think of the Conservative's broadband policy?

  • I don't like it (74%, 101 Votes)
  • Unsure (14%, 19 Votes)
  • I like it (12%, 16 Votes)

Total Voters: 136

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11 Responses
  1. CarlT

    Answering the poll is easy. ‘Unsure’ as there’s really nothing to it. There are ‘fibre spines’ all over the place anyway. Anywhere that has any quantity of FTTC cabinets has one, as does anywhere with Virgin Media presence.

  2. Steve Jones

    I’m going to stick my neck out here and say for 95% of the population, broadband policy isn’t going to play much part in voting decisions. It might be for the 5%, but it’s going to be noise round the edges.

    I have yet to see the issue come up with in interviews or analysis by TV pundits.

    • CarlT

      I’m pretty sure you’ve not stuck your neck out there, Steve. It’s not a factor in my considerations at all.

    • Yes I’d agreed, it’s not like it was back in 2010 either when there was so little between the parties that Internet and broadband policy did have more weight. This time there are bigger issues but our job is of course to focus on the broadband / internet side so that’s what you get 🙂 .

    • Steve Jones

      My comment was slightly tongue-in-cheek. However, it is an interesting test on looking at the manifesto commitments to judge how competent and realistic the parties are being in this area. It might be a pointer to their attention to realistic expectations in other fields.

    • MikeW

      Ironic, of course, that the 5% who would gain from a solid superfast commitment are likely to live in firm conservative constituencies … in England, anyway.

  3. jigglebits

    /me is looking forward to receiving “gigaspeed connectivity”

  4. Rich

    “Unsurprisingly this means that today’s Manifesto doesn’t offer any major surprises for digital infrastructure…”

    Id call it more boring but honest (well as honest as politicians can be) rather than money tree planting fantasies some the others have came up with that will never be delivered even if by some miracle they did win.

  5. smile please

    more spying guaranteed

  6. Doctor Colossus

    Vote Conservatives for a Strong and Stable (TM) internet connection controlled and regulated by the government: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/theresa-may-internet-conservatives-government-a7744176.html

  7. timeless

    actually l believe their broadband policy is a pretty important issue, given recent NHS hacks and the fact they want a back door into encryption you can bet if they get their way that the UK will in fact turn into a utopia for forigen hackers, and the most disgusting part of it all is that politicians will exempt themselves from these laws meaning that the only ppl whos data will be at risk will be ours…

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