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UK Labour Party Details 2010 General Election Broadband Promises

Posted: 13th Apr, 2010 By: MarkJ
labour party ukYesterday saw the UK Labour party issue its Manifesto (Labour Manifesto .PDF) for the forthcoming 2010 general election, which included an official outline of its broadband plans. Interestingly it pledges to reach the "final [10%]" of UK homes and businesses using Satellite and Mobile Broadband technology. The 50p +vat per month tax (Next Generation Fund) on all fixed phone lines also makes a reappearance.

The manifesto starts off well enough with promises of "broadband access for all" and "universal access within a decade to high-speed broadband across the country," though the party still has not defined what "high-speed" and "superfast" actually mean.

Broadband Britain [Labour Manifesto Statement]

Britain must be a world leader in the development of broadband. We are investing in the most ambitious plan of any industrialised country to ensure a digital Britain for all, extending access to every home and business. We will reach the long-term vision of superfast broadband for all through a public-private partnership in three stages:
* first, giving virtually every household in the country a broadband service of at least two megabits per second [2Mbps] by 2012;

* second, making possible superfast broadband for the vast majority of Britain in partnership with private operators, with Government investing over £1 billion in the next seven years;

* and lastly reaching the final ten per cent using satellites and mobile broadband.
Because we are determined that every family and business, not just some, should benefit, we will raise revenue to pay for this from a modest levy on fixed telephone lines. And we will continue to work with business, the BBC and other broadcasting providers to increase take-up of broadband and to ensure Britain becomes a leading digital economy.

The Manifesto confirms that Labour intends to keep its controversial 50p tax, despite being forced to scrap the idea from its Finance Bill last week (here) in a last minute effort to push other less contentious legislation through.

The tax would generate £175m per year and be used to help fund the rollout of next generation broadband services to 90% of the country by 2017. However it remains doubtful, given the strong chance of a Conservative victory or hung parliament, that this "levy" will ever see the light of day.

Elsewhere we must question the use of Satellite technology to reach the final 10% of uncovered UK homes and businesses with broadband. Presently Satellite is still too expensive, suffers from high latency problems and its usage allowances are not flexible enough for modern requirements.

New Satellite services from Avanti and Eutelsat might improve upon some areas of concern, but we won't know until the end Q4-2010. At present Satellite is too much of a "quick fix" for our liking and it risks being unaffordable for rural families on low-incomes; huge subsidies would be required for the hardware.

It's worth noting that Labour's initial Manifesto launch incorrectly referred to its 2012 target of 2Mbps as being "two megabytes per second" (equal to roughly 16Megabits per second). Thankfully this was hastily corrected. Expect further news items when the Liberal Democrat and Conservative Manifesto's surface, the latter of which will happen today.
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