Posts Tagged ‘broadband’

The glass is half empty for high speed broadband

17/08/2011, 10:15:07 AM

by Ian Lucas

When is good news not good news for rural communities struggling to get online?

Yesterday’s announcement by the Government of millions of pounds of investment sounds great. But despite the fanfare with which the Government is announcing its allocations, it is only providing half the money for projects.

Ministers are lining up to say how shameful it is that, in 21st century Britain, people in communities across Britain can’t get online in the way others take for granted.

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt says people are “suffering”. Environment secretary Caroline Spelman calls the situation “unthinkable.” Scottish secretary Michael Moore says broadband is a “lifeline.” But these are empty words, and more empty promises.

This anger from ministers at the situation communities across Britain face is only half the story – and their solution creates a big money problem for hard-pressed local councils. They must find millions from council budgets to ensure their areas don’t get left behind.

Devon and Somerset were revealed in the DCMS announcement to be receiving £31.2 million. Both counties must now find the same amount themselves. In contrast, in Greater London, a government assumption that the private sector will provide broadband means no government funds – but also no obligation to find the millions to match them.

The government’s decision to provide only half the necessary funds means an inequality in broadband provision is being guaranteed – unless rural councils find extra money from their own budgets.

Labour would have funded universal high speed broadband by 2015 through a 50p per month levy on fixed phone lines and an extra £230 million from the Digital Switchover Fund. The government ditched these plans. But the way in which it has structured their replacement means some local authorities have to find millions and others don’t, simply because of where they are.

The government’s superfast plans are starting to look more and more like a super stealth tax.

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

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The government’s empty promises on broadband

14/12/2010, 04:40:32 PM

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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