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General Election 2017: What the parties say about broadband

Thursday, May 18th 2017 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

This week has seen the UK's biggest political parties launch their manifestos – the promises and policies they hope will carry them to power and to which they will be held accountable.

Here, Cable.co.uk takes a look at what each party says it will do for broadband customers and the targets it will set for the industry.

Conservatives

The Conservative manifesto, launched today, promises to make broadband switching easier and pricing more transparent, including making it clear when a mobile customer has paid off the price of their handset.

It repeats previous government pledges that 95% of premises will have access to superfast broadband by the end of 2017 and that “high speed broadband” – defined in the new USO as 10Mbps – will be universally available by 2020.

The Tories say they will provide “gigaspeed connectivity” to as many homes and businesses as possible, and will connect 10m premises to full fibre networks within a decade.

A Theresa May government would introduce a connection voucher by 2018 to help businesses get full fibre services.

It would also extend mobile coverage to 95% geographic coverage of the UK by 2022 as well as ensuring there is “full and uninterrupted” coverage along major roads and main train lines, and “guaranteed wi-fi internet service on all such trains”.

The Conservatives say they will begin rolling out a 5G mobile network to provide “gigaspeed” connections to phones and will cover the majority of the population by 2027.

They also plan to reform the rules on takeovers and mergers for broadband companies so foreign ownership doesn’t “undermine British security or essential services”.

Labour

Labour’s manifesto promises “universal superfast broadband availability by 2022” but there is no reference to a minimum speed of 30Mbps, as there was in the draft version leaked last week.

The party pledges to improve 4G coverage and promises “uninterrupted 5G coverage” for urban areas, major roads and railways.

It also commits to expanding the provision of free public wi-fi in city centres and on public transport – and says that on day one of a Labour government, it would instruct the National Infrastructure Commission to investigate how to roll out 300Mbps within the next decade.

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats say they will embark on “a programme of installing hyperfast, fibre optic broadband across the UK” as part of a £100bn infrastructure investment.

Tim Farron’s manifesto promises superfast broadband with a download speed of 30Mbps and an upload speed of 6Mbps to every property in the UK by 2022.

It also says the Lib Dems will invest so that “broadband connections and services to be provided before 2020 have a speed of 2Gbps or more, with fibre to the premises (FTTP) as standard”.

The manifesto says small businesses should be prioritised in the rollout of what it calls “hyperfast” broadband.

The Lib Dems are promising to invest £2bn in improving rural broadband and say they will work with Ofcom to ensure better mobile coverage in rural areas.

Plaid Cymru

Plaid Cymru, in its its ‘Action Plan’, says its MPs “have spearheaded local campaigns in Parliament to increase mobile phone and broadband coverage in rural Wales, leading to huge improvements for residents and local businesses”.

The party says broadband and mobile not-spots are “making business untenable” in parts of rural Wales.

It commits to making ultrafast broadband available across the whole of Wales as well as “rolling out 5G mobile signal nationwide”.

SNP

The SNP says it has invested £400m in delivering superfast broadband to 95% of properties in Scotland by the end of this year and is planning to take coverage to 100% of Scotland by 2021.

The party says that in the next Parliamentary term, its MPs will call for the USO to be increased to 30Mbps with “an appropriate update mechanism to ensure that rural areas are not left behind”.

SNP MPs are also pledging to call for a summit on mobile not-spots, inviting the UK government and service providers to put forward “concrete actions” for improving connectivity in Scotland.

The SNP wants future mobile spectrum licensing to meet key tests on geographical and population coverage, and to introduce a ‘rural areas first’ policy for new spectrum deployments.

It also wants assurances that Scotland won’t lose out on the EU commitment to abolish mobile roaming charges.

This story will be updated as other major political parties publish their manifestos.

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