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General election 2015: What do the political parties say about broadband?

Wednesday, April 22nd 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

With the General Election just weeks away, Cable.co.uk looks at the pledges the major political parties are making on broadband provision and mobile coverage.

The last government set a target of bringing superfast broadband (speeds of 24Mbps and above) to 90% of the UK by 2016 through its Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme, with a superfast extension programme increasing coverage to 95% by the end of the following year.

It also struck a deal with the UK’s four mobile network operators committing them to providing voice and text coverage across 90% of the country’s landmass by the end of 2017.

EE, Vodafone, O2 and Three agreed to invest a combined £5bn to cut not-spots – areas with little or no mobile coverage.

Here are the main points made by each party in their manifesto:-

Conservative

The Conservative Party has promised to deliver “the most comprehensive and cheapest superfast broadband coverage of any major European country”.

The party’s manifesto sets out a £100bn investment in infrastructure, including broadband and mobile.

It says ultrafast broadband – speeds of 100Mbps or more – should be available to “nearly all UK premises as soon as practicable”.

It also repeats the Conservatives’ aim of delivering superfast broadband – speeds of at least 24Mbps – to 95% of the UK by the end of 2017.

The document also says the Tories will provide rural Britain with “near universal superfast broadband” by 2020 and pledges to boost the UK’s mobile coverage.

'World leader'

It says it will ensure no-one is left behind by subsidising the cost of installing superfast capable satellite services in the very hardest to reach areas, adding: “And we will also release more spectrum from public sector use to allow greater private sector access.”

The Conservatives’ promised £100bn investment in infrastructure includes mobile as well as broadband.

Its manifesto says: “We will hold the mobile operators to their new legally binding agreement to ensure that 90% of the UK landmass will have voice and SMS coverage by 2017.

“We will continue to invest in mobile infrastructure to deliver coverage for voice calls and text messages for the final 0.3 – 0.4% of UK premises that do not currently have it.”

The Conservatives also say they will ensure Britain “seizes the chance to be a world leader in the development of 5G, playing a key role in defining industry standards”.

Labour

A Labour government will deliver “affordable, high speed broadband” to the whole of the UK by the end of the Parliament, according to the party’s 2015 manifesto.

The party’s manifesto also focuses on digital inclusion, saying it will “support community-based campaigns to reduce the proportion of citizens unable to use the internet and help those who need it to get the skills to make the most of digital technology”.

Labour’s longer-term approach will drive innovation and build on the UK’s strength as a leader in digital technology, its manifesto promises.

“We are just at the start of the internet revolution,” it says.

'Transformative'

“Digital technology has transformed start-up costs making it easier to run your own business.

“There is a widening in the application of new transformative technologies in the fields of robotics, genetics, 3D printing and Big Data.”

As well as promising “affordable, high speed broadband”, Labour has pledged to deliver the infrastructure needed to extend mobile coverage and reduce not-spots – areas with little or no mobile signal.

It says it will do this by working with the mobile industry and regulator to maximise private sector investment.

Liberal Democrat

The Liberal Democrat manifesto promises to “complete the rollout of high-speed broadband, to reach almost every household (99.9%) in the UK”.

It also says it will roll out high-speed broadband to small business in rural and urban areas.

The Lib Dems also want to “build on the success of Tech City, Tech North and the Cambridge tech cluster with a network across the UK acting as incubators for technology companies”, its manifesto says.

The party will also “maintain and develop the award-winning government digital service, and the principle of digital by default in public services, pressing ahead with plans to extend this to local government.”

Developing digital skills, especially among young people and the unemployed, is also a priority for the party.

UKIP

UKIP’s manifesto makes no mention of broadband or mobile infrastructure.

Green Party

The Green Party says internet service providers will be given an “obligation to provide affordable high-speed broadband-capable infrastructure to every household and small business”.

“This in particular will encourage video-conferencing, helping to reduce both business and family travel,” its manifesto pledges.

The Greens have also promised to tighten the rules on cross-media ownership to ensure no individual or company owns more than 20% of any media market.

SNP

The SNP will seek additional investment to support a more rapid rollout of superfast broadband, and to support wider and affordable internet access in disadvantaged communities, it says.

The party’s manifesto says it will press for a Universal Service Obligation – the legal entitlement to a basic service – to be applied to telecoms and broadband providers, also providing funding of £1.5 million to increase free provision of wi-fi in public buildings.

“Our aim is to deliver a future-proofed infrastructure that will establish world-class digital connectivity across Scotland by 2020, including tackling the digital divide,” it says.

“That is why we are investing in Superfast Broadband, so that at least 95% of premises across Scotland will be able to access fibre broadband by the end of 2017.”

As part of its manifesto, the SNP said it will press for 4G across Scotland alongside affordable internet access.

Plaid Cymru

Plaid Cymru set a target of delivering 30Mbps broadband to the whole of Wales if it wins the general election.

The party’s manifesto says: “We want to see an improved broadband connection, getting everybody online so that people can do business from home, with a target that all parts of Wales have access to speeds of at least 30Mbps and ensure that mobile phone operators provide a better service in all parts of Wales.”

The document also says it wants to ensure “that mobile phone operators provide a better service in all parts of Wales”.

Additional reporting by Ellen Branagh

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