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2019 Conservative Manifesto Reiterates £5bn Gigabit Broadband Plan

Sunday, November 24th, 2019 (3:50 pm) - Score 4,106
conservative party uk

The UK Conservative Party has today published their own Manifesto for the 12th December 2019 General Election, which naturally repeats their existing pledges to cover the whole of the UK with “gigabit-capable” broadband services by 2025 and to spend £5bn on helping to reach those in the hardest to reach (final 20%) of areas.

One of the advantages – or disadvantages (depending upon your perspective) – of being the party of Government is that people often go into a General Election with a better idea of what you’d actually aim to deliver and how. In that sense the new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has already revealed quite a few plans for his future policy and today’s manifesto largely echoes those.

The headline items are of course that pledge, funded by extra public investment of £5bn, to ensure that “every home and business” has access to a “full fibre and gigabit-capable broadband” service by the end of 2025 (here).

On top of that they’ve also vaguely promised to “provide greater mobile coverage across the country,” which we take as a thin reference to the recent £1bn industry-led agreement on mobile coverage (here). The aim of that is to extend geographic 4G coverage to 95% by the end of 2025 (the Government will put £500m into this).

2019 Conservative Manifesto Statement

If this Conservative Government is returned to office, we will have an infrastructure revolution for this country. Now is the time to invest in Northern Powerhouse Rail, and the Midlands Rail Hub, and so many more projects, as well as a massive programme of improvements for our roads and gigabit broadband for every home and business.

Connecting the UK is not just about transport. We are Europe’s technology capital, producing start-ups and success stories at a dazzling pace. But not everyone can share the benefits. We intend to bring full fibre and gigabit-capable broadband to every home and business across the UK by 2025.

We know how difficult it will be, so we have announced a raft of legislative changes to accelerate progress and £5 billion of new public funding to connect premises which are not commercially viable.

We have already analysed the aforementioned commitments before and so won’t be repeating ourselves (see links above), although on the whole the 2025 pledge for broadband still looks very optimistic (hard to say without seeing more detail as they seem set to include 5G, as well as Virgin Media’s cable network, alongside FTTP/H); albeit nowhere near as unrealistic as Boris’ original “full fibre” for all by 2025 plan.

A big question mark also exists over that £5bn funding pledge, which again is hard to judge without more detail on their delivery strategy. The lack of clarity over what this means for the rollout of “full fibre” (i.e. will it ever reach every home and if so, by when?) is another somewhat galling point.

By comparison the industry-led mobile plan seems more concrete (thanks to being fleshed out and supported by the industry), at least provided operators have their feet held to the fire on any delays. Ofcom will apparently be able to impose significant fines if they don’t.

NOTE: Readers should always take political pledges, from any party, with a pinch of salt until there’s more solid detail (something manifestos always lack).

The manifesto also promises to launch a review to “explore how we can better support the self-employed. That includes improving their access to finance and credit (not least mortgages), making the tax system easier to navigate, and examining how better broadband can boost home working,” which doesn’t at this time provide much to bite into.

Arguably one of the toughest things for the party to sell – in terms of digital connectivity – will be the Government’s approach to internet regulation, which if handled poorly (not uncommon for politicians on telecoms matters) carries an increased risk of serious harm from overzealous internet censorship. On the other hand plenty of ordinary people think that what some folk say online can easily go too far, although controlling the vibrancy of human thought is rather dicey (see Russia, China and Iran for examples).

2019 Conservative Manifesto Statement

We will legislate to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online – protecting children from online abuse and harms, protecting the most vulnerable from accessing harmful content, and ensuring there is no safe space for terrorists to hide online – but at the same time defending freedom of expression and in particular recognising and defending the invaluable role of a free press.

Also, given how the online world is moving, the Gambling Act is increasingly becoming an analogue law in a digital age. We will review it, with a particular focus on tackling issues around loot boxes and credit card misuse.

We already covered this as part of our earlier summary on the Online Harms White Paper (here), which noted that tackling areas like hate speech, conspiracy theories and fake news is very subjective (context is king) and that is excruciatingly difficult for internet companies or automated filtering systems to correctly judge. The Online Harms Bill will also include the endlessly delayed internet porn block via age verification (here), which many view as a privacy nightmare.

NOTE: The Online Harms White Paper also targets smaller sites (blogs, forums etc.), most of which would stand no chance of even being able to afford automated filtering systems. As such some aspects of their proposals may be unworkable in the real-world.

Admittedly this election is about much more than broadband (Brexit is the dominant topic) and as such issues of internet connectivity or regulation will inevitably be significant less important to voters this time around than in previous such events.

What do you think of the Conservatives' broadband policy?

  • I like it (53%, 81 Votes)
  • I don't like it (29%, 45 Votes)
  • I'm undecided (18%, 28 Votes)

Total Voters: 154

Leave a Comment
23 Responses
  1. Avatar Gareth

    A £5 Billion investment in broadband infrastructure is more believable than Corbyn’s crazed idea to nationalise the network and risk 100’s of smaller ISP’s and investors running in horror, leaving the consumer with NO choice. And at some point even if Labour did manage to pull it off without bankrupting the country, you would have to start charging again as FREE isn’t a sustainable model as proven by history.

    We would then be left paying 1 company with NO choice.

    Mind you if Labour nationalise the power grid again, we won’t have to worry about broadband as we’ll be having FUN blackout days again….YiPeeeeee!!!

    The good old days LOL

    • Avatar Timeless

      to be honest the Tories are more likely to bankrupt the country given they have doubled the national debt into the Trillions now!! they have managed to borrow more in 9 years than any Labour government over the past 100 years, this information is freely available if you look for it.

      as for free, its not exactly free when things will be paid for through taxes, as l understand it tax cuts given to the wealthy will be reversed to pay for this amongst other things which is why the Tories are so against it, but its not like it will hurt their bank balances much given the wealthiest have doubled their wealth in the past 9 years.

  2. Avatar beany

    Love em or hate em (i am a bit of both) the broadband policy of the 3 main parties to me seems the most realistic apart from the 2025 dateline. So of their other policies though i am not so sure on.

    Also, not sure what all the censorship talk is about in the news story, IMO that is a different matter (one they need to change) to the pledges from parties on actual broadband rollouts.

    So far, personally i personally do not think any of the 3 main parties are fit to govern or deserve my vote.

  3. Avatar Lee

    Waste of time. Don’t believe any of those three main parties for Broadband. All lying in their own face. It’s will never gonna happen within next five years whoever get in power.

  4. Avatar A_Builder

    Surely the question is more what do you need to spend to finish the job?

    Relatively tiny amounts of money are stimulating a lot of activity in rural FTTP.

    £5bn is affordable at national level and about the right sort of sum to get things done. It won’t be perfect but it will keep things rolling apace.

  5. Avatar DontMakeMeLaugh

    OK so 2025 may be a little bit optimistic but at least they are doing the right thing rather than nationalising Openreach which would be madness. Interesting the official Labour party manifesto costing document does not take into account any nationalisation costs as they claim it will cost them nothing (£0.00) to do this as the outlay will result in an asset although I find this strange as the cost will still need to be found by the British tax payers

    • Avatar Laurence "GreenReaper" Parry

      Technically they’d be financing the equity with debt (i.e. bonds), so at the instant of nationalization it could be seen as a trade of equal value. However they will have to pay interest on them going forwards – as well as the maintenance of the asset and provision of the service to residents.

  6. Avatar Craig

    Another lie by tories and other parties lets get Brexit done coming upto 4 years tories Moto for the last 3 years.

    • Avatar DontMakeMeLaugh

      Not a lie by the Tories, they have been trying but they have come up against other parties blocking it. So what can they do? the answer is a General Election 🙂

    • Avatar Ronski

      If you had actually been paying proper attention you would have seen that parliament (that’s all party’s) has done everything possible to block Brexit – blame that on the remainers not the Tories. When you have a minority it’s hard to get things done. Corbyn has done everything he can to derail Brexit for his own political gains, others have done the same denying the result of a democratic vote.

    • Avatar dee.jay

      Just want to add my support to the Tories – as Ronski and DontMakeMeLaugh have correctly stated, Brexit has not been blocked by the Tories. It is every other party trying to stop Brexit altogether. Geoffrey Cox was quite right with his comments a few weeks ago – “This parliament is a disgrace”

    • Avatar Mike

      I suspect Corbyn at heart is still a leaver but is held hostage by his party, but fence sitting will just see them gobbled up by Brexit Party and the Illiberal Undemocrats.

    • Avatar David Robertson

      @dee.jay – if the other parties had not been actively trying to block Brexit, the Tories would have ended up doing it to themselves when they realised how difficult it is. This is convenient because they get to blame the other parties.

    • Avatar Fred Standard

      Johnson, JRM and the ERG members all voted against May’s deal.
      The fault truly lies with the fact that Brexit is undeliverable.
      20 or so different interpretations. Nobody will be happy in the end.
      It’s pointless.
      And there’s no benefit.
      And nobody cared before the propaganda machine kicked in in 2016.

      Let’s get it gone and spend the time and energy fixing our country.

      We need to grow up and stop blaming other people for our own mistakes.

    • Avatar DontMakeMeLaugh

      @Fred Standard

      You said: ‘Nobody cared before the propaganda machine kicked in in 2016’

      Lots of people did care about the negative effects of being in the EU but until the referendum happened there was nothing that could be done.

    • Avatar Fred Standard

      @DontMakeMeLaugh

      you, Sir, are a revisionist fantasist.
      https://www.reddit.com/r/brexit/comments/ca57w6/coincidence/

      And after the propaganda machine kicked in people thought there were laws against bendy bananas and we were sending “vast sums” to the EU, when in fact there were no such laws and “vast” sums were less than the budget of Leicester council (and approx 1% of GDP), with a much greater saving in national admin costs.. not to mention the benefit to the public purse etc etc etc etc etc etc.. but then there’s; Turkey joined.. and the EU conscript army..
      Also, blue passport (let’s ignore Croatia, or, you know, the regulations we part create).

    • Avatar DontMakeMeLaugh

      @Fred Standard

      Not me sir.

  7. Avatar Mark

    Still for some if they lose their jobs because of brexit, they’ll be more worried about feeding the family than broadband, it’s all great being gunho, and big headed, brexit at all costs, I’m afraid some will be left with a mast taste in their mouth.

  8. Avatar Fred Standard

    How can people still believe anything they say any more?
    It’s like they haven’t been in power for the last nine years and haven’t created this environment of national failure.

    There was so much time to fix broadband. And it didn’t even need gobs of cash. Just creative engineering and a tweak of laws to allow private funding to fibre-ise the nation. Sweden can do it, Spain can do it, Poland can do it, Netherlands can do it.. But noooo…

    As much as I despise Corbyn, seriously, these Tories.. we’re this stuffed because of them.. and the lack of an effective opposition.

    • Avatar DontMakeMeLaugh

      If you want out of control mass spending of money that the country simply hasn’t got vote Labour or Lib Dems, If you want a sensible government who won’t massively increase the countries debt don’t vote Labour or Lib Dems

    • Avatar Timeless

      your joking right? the Tories have doubled the national debt since they got in, the deficit is now in the Trillions!!! if you actually look at current borrowing you would be much more critical of the Tories.

    • Avatar dee.jay

      @Timeless, you need to do some fact checking, my friend.

      When Labour lost power – they left a note as a joke “the money is all gone” That is precisely what would happen again given half the chance. This isn’t the centre-left Labour anymore…

    • Debt has indeed increased significantly, albeit due to years of so-called “quantitative easing” that started under Labour as their solution to the 2008/9 financial crisis (once that train starts, you can’t easily turn it off until the economy settles). Lots of pros and cons to be debated on that but not for today.

      General government gross debt was £1,821.9 billion at the end of the financial year ending March 2019, equivalent to 84.2% of gross domestic product (GDP). All of the cost cutting has stopped this rising like it was before and so debt as a proportion of GDP has been falling very slowly, although until we start paying down that debt mountain then it’ll continue to act like a noose on public spending.

      Any party thus planning to plough hundreds of billions of “additional” public spending into the economy will be taking a big risk.

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