The government’s empty promises on broadband

by Ian Lucas

Jeremy Hunt says he will introduce high speed broadband across the UK by 2015. His deputy, Ed Vaizey, says the government does not know how much this will cost. Confused? That is exactly what is intended. It suits the government to envelope the topic of broadband in a freezing fog because it is trying to sell a bum deal.

Universal broadband, that is, broadband to every community in the UK, was guaranteed by Labour by 2012. It was to be paid for, as specified in Stephen Carter’s “Digital Britain” white paper, by £230 million left over from the digital switchover fund. This was a major step to enable public service delivery by broadband.

The Tories and Lib-Dems have set back even the target for universal broadband to 2015, dealing a major blow to real progress to online services in this parliament. To fog the issue further, the government have mixed in Labour’s second goal – high speed broadband.

Labour gave a manifesto commitment to fund a national high-speed broadband network through a levy on phone lines. This was controversial but costed. In contrast, the Tories have asked those nice people from the BBC to pay £600 million over four years as a contribution to the cost of high speed broadband. £300 million of that money is not available until after the Government’s target date for completion and is payable in 2015/6 and 2016/7.

The Government does not know how much its commitment to high speed broadband will cost. Ed Vaizey said so in the answer to a parliamentary question on 1 December. But it is trying to sell its realisation by 2015 anyway.

So, be sceptical. Unless and until the Government tell us how much their high speed broadband will cost and where that figure will be sourced, its achievement by 2015 will not be credible.

Ian Lucas is Labour MP for Wrexham and a shadow business minister.

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One Response to “The government’s empty promises on broadband”

  1. Gary says:

    Disingenous rubbish all round.

    The govt knows full well what universal broadband will cost: They asked Analysys Mason, a technical consultancy, to come up with the number. The number was *not* £230m. Try adding zeros to that number.

    Labour and tory are both in possession of the facts. Both have decieved.

    Yes that means you too Mr Lucas.

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