The Election fever is hotting up and with the first televised debate out of the way hopefully the campaign will put personalities aside and start to focus on pledges and policy. With that in mind I thought I’d do a quick skim of the main parties manifestos for any mention of broadband – how might our politicians be squaring up to Peter Cochrane’s comment that we aren’t even in the global 20 counties.

So here goes, in no particular order:

  • Labour have pledged to re-instate the 50p levy on fixed line telephones which will raise around £150-170m per year with a total fund over time of around £1bn specifically targetting the “final third”, with mobile and satellite services for 10% of the population.
  • Conservative is the only party to have published a specific technology manifesto; its a wide-ranging document but perhaps begins with mandating duct and pole sharing, and if the market fails to repsond by 2012 they may retain the Digital Switchover levy on the TV Licence fee to raise around £200m per year, with a total fund over time of perhaps £1.4bn also taregetting areas of market failure. Local authorities will also be given new powers to invest and support local partnerships.
  • Lib Dems want to “support public investment in the roll-out of superfast broadband, targeted first at those areas which are least likely to be provided for by the market” but give no further details about the types of intervention, the costs, time-scales or what “super fast” means.
  • Scottish Nationalists manifesto took a bit more time to find as their website suggests they hadn’t updated their policies for this election, leaving the 2005 manifesto alone in the list of document. Finally locating it wasn’t much help either – broadband isn’t mentioned once in their 32-page document – bad news for arguably the most digitally excluded region of the UK.
  • Plaid Cymru have said they will “prioritise access to broadband with the aim of providing super-fast broadband to our companies and homes. We will also campaign for compulsory mobile network sharing – giving people across Wales improved mobile coverage.” No costs or specifics are given.
  • UKIP have no mention of broadband or technology in their 16-page manifesto. Since a lot of NGA broadband projects in the UK are at least part funded by the EU it would have been useful to understand how they plan to unlock investment should they win the election and pull the UK out of Europe.
  • The Green Party says it want to ensure “that all have digital access; give BT an obligation to provide affordable high-speed broadband-capable infrastructure to every household.”  No mention of funding so I guess that’s bad news for BT shareholders.
  • The BNP appear not to have released a manifesto for 2010 but since fibre was invented by a Nobel winning Hong Kong immigrant in the UK who has since repatriated himself no doubt they feel their work is done.

Of the main parties, only Conservatives and Labour provide details of how they plan to kick start investment, and choosing between their broadband policies seems to come down to whether your prefer a 50p levy on phone lines and the possibility of a satellite connection in a perhaps more top-down policy (Labour), or a continued levy on the TV licence fee and more local partnerships working together to find solutions (Conservative).

Addendum: Since writing this, the BNP leader, Nick Griffin, has appeared on BBC Newsnight (24 Apr) where he explained to Jeremy Paxman that his party do have a broadband policy. They appreciate that its too expensive for BT to install the fibre optic cables they want us all to have, so they will be using penal servitude – prisoners safe enough not to be sent to their plans for a South Georgia penal colony will be expected to dig the trenches and install the fibre. Glad to offer clarity on this!

I’ll leave it for you to make your own minds up.

  1. cyberdoyle says:

    nowt wrong with a bit of penal servitude, they might as well lay fibre as sew mail bags? or was that the old style prison, I think they just watch tv and play games in prison now.
    Seriously, there is nothing wrong with employing tradesmen currently languishing in the dole queue or in prison to build the infrastructure this country needs. Laying fibre may cost money, but using the right ways and joining the right dots the money will stay in the country so it isn’t a true cost is it? and the ROI is for everyone.
    The first party to actually grasp this could write a digitalbritain plan that rocks. Unlike the current one we have that has no imagination or common sense in it.
    I think they still use chain gangs in USA don’t they? anyone know?

    • adrian says:

      Think they had Alabama-style chain-gangs in mind – less romantic than Sam Cook or Steve McQueen in Cool Hand Luke. Forced labour from the BNP has a rather nastier connotation.

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