The Conservative Party has promised to give most UK homes 100Mbps broadband network access by 2017 as part of a revamp of Britain's communications regulations.
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In a statement setting out Tory policy, shadow secretary of state for culture, media and sport Jeremy Hunt repeated comments by Ed Vaizey last year. Hunt said the Tories would:
- Create a regulatory framework to ensure the roll out of superfast broadband at speeds of up to 100mbps to "upwards of two-thirds" of homes across the UK by 2017.
- End BT's local loop monopoly by allowing other operators to use BT's ducts and poles to build their own networks.
- Survey all utilities' infrastructure, such as sewers, powerlines and gas mains, with a view to forcing them to make it available for broadband network deployments.
- Use part of the BBC's licence fee to leverage high-speed deployments to remote areas.
- Change the business rates system to ensure that all operators pay the same rate per lit fibre-kilometre, without harming the Treasury's take.
- Change building regulations to force builders to provide "superfast-ready" homes.
Hunt said existing government plans to provide a 2Mbps universal broadband access by 2012 were too little, too late.
"Our objective is to make the UK the first major European country to achieve [widespread 100Mbps access], securing its place as a European and global hub for the creative industries," he said.
A BT spokesman said the UK had one of the most competitive broadband markets in the world. BT had a 25% retail market share, and 99% of homes could access copper broadband, he said. Prices were low and close to 20 million homes out of an estimated 27 million already enjoyed "services".
He added that BT was spending £1.5bn to get fibre to at least 10 million homes by mid-2012. "Going substantially further will however, as we have seen with other countries, require some form of public sector support and so we look forward to engaging with politicians from every party."
He said BT would look forward to discussions on providing third party access to ducts and poles. "We are open to the idea and would welcome any ideas that would help rather than hinder the roll-out of superfast broadband," he said.