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UPDATE Labour Party Pledges 30Mbps Superfast Broadband for All by 2022

Thursday, May 11th, 2017 (9:12 am) - Score 1,793

A confirmed leak of the Labour Party’s draft 2017 General Election Manifesto has revealed that Jeremy Corbyn will promise to deliver “universal superfast broadband availability” across the United Kingdom by 2022, which they’ve defined as offering a minimum speed of 30Mbps.

Readers with a good memory will recall that the party’s 2015 manifesto was distinctly less specific about time-scale and service speed, although it did make a broadly similarly pledge to ensure that “all parts of the country benefit from affordable, high speed broadband by the end of the Parliament.” By comparison Jeremy Corbyn’s commitment feels a bit more fleshed out and the time-scale seems viable.

However the party is a little less specific when it comes to explaining how they intend to “improve 4G coverage” (Mobile). Similarly their commitment to “invest to ensure all urban areas as well as major roads and railways have uninterrupted 5G coverage” sounds a lot like what the private sector should be able to deliver on its own (there’s no mention of rural coverage).

The UK Labour Party’s 2017 Broadband Pledge

Labour’s infrastructure investment and mission-led industrial strategy will make Britain a better place to do business, and give businesses the confidence to invest in Britain. We will also encourage private investment by removing new plant and machinery from business rate calculations.

We will deliver universal superfast broadband availability by 2022. Few things are more crucial to businesses and our economy than a fast and reliable internet connection, but 3 million households and businesses have been left incapacitated by slow internet. We will deliver a universal superfast 30mbps service availability to all households by 2022. The Conservative commitment to just 10mbps will see the 400,000 small businesses and nearly two million homes left with substandard broadband well into the next decade.

In December, the National Infrastructure Commission ranked the UK 54th in the world for 4G coverage and said the average user could get a signal “barely half the time“. That isn’t just frustrating, it is increasingly holding British business back as more and more of our economy requires a connected workforce.

Labour will improve mobile internet coverage and expand provision of free public wi-fi in city centres and on public transport. We will improve 4G coverage and will invest to ensure all urban areas as well as major roads and railways have uninterrupted 5G coverage.

One notable absence above is Corbyn’s previous talk about his aspiration to foster a “nationwideFibre-to-the-Premise (FTTP/H) broadband network (here), which would have been funded by £25bn from a new National Investment Bank (NIB).

The NIB idea, which would be “financed with an injection of initial public capital which will be leveraged using additional private sector finance to give £250bn of lending power over the next decade,” is however still present and would no doubt be used to fuel their 30Mbps policy instead.

As you’d expect from any political party’s Manifesto, there’s not much in the way of detail concerning precise funding (Ofcom estimated up to £2bn for universal 30Mbps), technology choice and or what market adjustments may be needed in order to foster the new target. Likewise it’s unclear whether they’ve included upload speeds or are only focused on download performance.

However the target itself is viable, particularly since the current Conservative Government’s Broadband Delivery UK programme already anticipates that 24-30Mbps+ capable fixed line broadband should cover around 97% of premises by 2020. The key difference being that Labour is talking about a legally-binding USO rather than a virtual commitment.

One risk from a 30Mbps USO might be that handing the delivery to BT, if that was to happen, could damage the growth of alternative network providers (Ofcom has been trying hard to foster altnets and competition at infrastructure level via their Strategic Review). We say BT because earlier consultations have also suggested that none of the other ISPs were terribly interested in taking on the costly legal burden of a USO.

Otherwise we’re not interested in the wider politics of this election and our focus is thus purely on what the different parties are going to offer for broadband. More Manifesto launches are on the way and we’ll be covering those too, although we’d be surprised to see anything new from the Conservatives beyond what they’ve already announced before Easter (Budget 2017 Summary).

As usual, always take any political pledges from any party with a big pinch of salt.

UPDATE 16th May 2017

The final manifesto has now been published and it includes an aspirational suggestion of universal 300Mbps broadband coverage (here).

Leave a Comment
15 Responses
  1. Avatar wireless pacman says:

    Pinch of salt? Swimming pool of cow poo more like! 🙂

  2. Avatar Gareth says:

    Hmmmm, universal superfast broadband, re-nationalise energy companies and train companies, building 100’000s of houses per year…..

    Shall we start planting the seeds for the magic money trees now or later?

    1. Avatar Tom Bartlett says:

      It can all be funded by raising taxes on higher earners.

      Whats the Tory policy? Strong and stable broadband?

    2. Avatar dragoneast says:

      Yep, and the higher earners can stop employing the lower paid workers, who can just join the dole. Which is of course fine because that won’t include the politicians and their friends!

    3. Avatar Enki says:

      Always enough money on the magic tree to drop bombs on Asain countries, so yeh money much better spent on universal broadband, rather creating space for ISIS in Libya…

  3. Avatar dragoneast says:

    Aren’t the union leaders of the Rail, Post Office/communications and the Unison monolith, Labour’s paymasters? Just getting what they pay for. It must be their wet dream.

    Delivering the disaffected into the hands of the Unions. What an appealing prospect. Maybe not.

  4. Avatar bob says:

    Hmm, this along with scores of other policies appear to be an incoherent mash up design to bribe as many target groups as possible.

    1. Avatar timeless says:

      funny because last election Labour had a few ideas which the Tories spent most of their time shooting down.. yet now they are great..

    2. Avatar wireless pacman says:

      To be fair Timeless, all parties play that game.

    3. Avatar timeless says:

      some parties however focus more on actually focusing on shooting down policies rather than just telling us how to vote or digging up pictures of how bad someone looks eating a bacon butty or that they accidentally landed on a rabbit with their pogo stick..

      hell theres hardly a peep about a certain Tory who committed arson of a green house.. or the many other things that would normally make the news but seemingly kept quiet.

  5. Avatar Sledgehammer says:

    They got the year wrong. Should have been 2122?

  6. Avatar aslam says:

    we all can say this and that we can do this ? but all the idiots of the so called government are as bad as each other will never happen same goes with old bag may waste of time .

    1. Avatar timeless says:

      its a mindset like that which puts the Tories back into office.. because Tory voters will always vote, because those who hold such mindset tend not to vote so deserve what they get.

  7. Avatar GNewton says:

    Various flavours of present and past governments have failed to introduce a proper nationwide fibre broadband policy, this goes all the way back to the Thatcher years.

    The digital divide and cherry-picking fibre broadband coverage will continue for a long time to come, made even worse by half-baked infrastructure competition.

    1. Avatar timeless says:

      thats what happens when private companies pride profit over people. and we all know which party has privatised most of our services..

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