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UK Conservative Party Details 2010 General Election Broadband Pledges

Posted: 13th Apr, 2010 By: MarkJ
conservative party ukThe UK Conservative Party has now issued its Manifesto (Download .PDF) for the forthcoming 2010 general election, which includes an official outline of its broadband plans. As expected they propose to scrap Labour's 50p +vat phone line tax, force BT and other infrastructure providers to open their cable ducts and use part of the BBC TV Licence fee to fund a wider fibre optic broadband rollout.

Spread prosperity [Conservative Manifesto Statement]

We want Britain to become a European hub for hi-tech, digital and creative industries – but this can only happen if we have the right infrastructure in place. Establishing a superfast broadband network throughout the UK could generate 600,000 additional jobs and add £18 billion to Britain’s GDP.

We will scrap Labour’s phone tax and instead require BT and other infrastructure providers to allow the use of their assets to deliver superfast broadband across the country.

If necessary [IN 2012], we will consider using the part of the [BBC TV] licence fee [ED: 3.5% - £130m per year] that is supporting the digital switchover to fund broadband in areas that the market alone will not reach.

We will give councils and businesses the power to form their own business-led local enterprise partnerships instead of RDAs. Where local councils and businesses want to maintain regionally-based enterprise partnerships, they will be able to.

We note with interest that there is no mention of delivering a minimum broadband speed of 2Mbps to everybody in the country by 2012, which despite being a Labour policy has still received cross-party support. Perhaps it was just not appropriate to mention this in a "Conservative policy" sheet.

Similarly they make no mention of their previous specifics, which promised to deliver "100Mbps broadband across most of the population" by 2017. The closest we get to that this time is "Establishing a superfast broadband network throughout the UK".

Finally there's also no mention of their previous promise to review the Fibre Tax, which essentially taxes the rateable value of the basic infrastructure. Many see the tax as a significant obstacle to rolling out superfast fibre optic broadband networks.

We've long been, like the majority of visitors to ISPreview.co.uk (survey), in favour of using part of the BBC's TV Licence to fund Next Generation Access (NGA). We also agree with opening up access to BT's cable ducts for rivals. However we are disappointed to see no clear line from the Conservative's on the Fibre Tax, which could be crucial to any success through greater private investment.

So far both the Labour and Conservative Manifesto's have been a little on the weak side, but then that is to be expected from any document that must be readable by all; especially those least likely to understand some of the concepts. Next up, the Lib Dems.
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