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Next government needs ‘ambitious, clear and detailed’ broadband vision

Monday, April 20th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

The next government needs to provide an “ambitious, clear and detailed vision” for the internet and communications sector, the body representing UK service providers has said.

The Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) said it is key that political parties recognise the crucial role the internet plays in society and economy.

The comments come in the wake of a flurry of manifesto pledges by major political parties ahead of the General Election.

The Conservatives promised “the most comprehensive and cheapest superfast broadband coverage of any major European country”, setting out a £100bn investment in infrastructure, including broadband and mobile.

The party’s manifesto said ultrafast broadband – speeds of 100Mbps or more – should be available to “nearly all UK premises as soon as practicable”.

It also repeated the party’s aim of delivering superfast broadband – speeds of at least 24Mbps – to 95% of the UK by the end of 2017 and pledged to boost the UK’s mobile coverage.

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

The Liberal Democrat manifesto promised to “complete the rollout of high-speed broadband, to reach almost every household (99.9%) in the UK”, as well as taking it to small business in rural and urban areas.

Labour promised to ensure that “all parts of the country benefit from affordable, high speed broadband by the end of the Parliament”, and to deliver the infrastructure needed to extend mobile coverage and reduce not-spots.

UKIP’s manifesto made no mention of broadband or mobile infrastructure, while Plaid Cymru set a target of delivering 30Mbps broadband to the whole of Wales.

4G across Scotland

And today, the SNP said it will seek additional investment to support a more rapid rollout of superfast broadband and 4G across Scotland, and to support wider and affordable internet access in disadvantaged communities.

The party also said it will press for a Universal Service Obligation – the legal entitlement to a basic service – to be applied to telecoms and broadband providers.

Commenting on the parties’ manifestos, ISPA welcomed the parties’ recognition of the importance of broadband investment and continued support for superfast rollout.

But it said parties should be more ambitious and aim for ubiquitous superfast broadband, with targeted investment and incentives for the private sector to continue to innovate and develop their networks.

The association also said that while it welcomed the main parties’ promises of affordable and widespread access to the internet, it cautioned against commitments to treat broadband as a basic utility if that came with unnecessary and burdensome regulations.

It also said that while broadband commitments are welcome, parties should also “craft a vision” around what the infrastructure could be used for.

ISPA Secretary General Nicholas Lansman said “The UK internet industry is a success story and all parties need to be more ambitious and recognise the crucial role the internet plays in society and the economy.

“What industry needs from the next government is an ambitious, clear and detailed vision for the Internet and communications sector.”

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