With the release of the Conservative Party manifesto, voters, pundits and the channel can finally begin to compare the two main visions on offer. After a quick comparison of the pledges to improve broadband infrastructure, both parties seem to be living Cloud Coo Coo Land.
Labour's manifesto says:
Labour will ensure that all parts of the country benefit from affordable, high speed broadband by the end of the Parliament. We will work with the industry and the regulator to maximise private sector investment and deliver the mobile infrastructure needed to extend coverage and reduce ‘not spots’, including in areas of market failure.
The Tories have pledged to:
Provide rural Britain with near universal superfast broadband by the end of the next Parliament.
Both pledges are equally preposterous, says Dan Howdle, editor of comparison website and consumer champion, Cable.co.uk.
“Labour's impracticable pledge to provide every home in the UK with 'affordable, high-speed broadband for all' by 2020 appears to have had some influence,” quips Howdle. “The Conservatives are – far more wisely – eschewing one-upmanship in favour of employing terminological fluff to describe their connectivity intentions across the next term.”
"Since a person, party or community will no more be able to accuse the government of breaking its manifesto pledge than they will to define exactly what was meant by 'near universal' in the first place, it promises nothing tangible."
Perhaps unwisely, the Tories pointed to the existing Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) scheme, which aims to ‘secure the delivery of superfast broadband in urban and rural areas to provide coverage to 95 per cent of the UK by the end of 2017’.’
"This government's promise to reach 95% of the UK with superfast broadband by 2017 is already over two years in process,” Howdle points out.
"It should be noted, however, that superfast now reaches only around 80% of UK homes. The government's Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) project, which works alongside BT Openreach, must reach twice as many homes in the next two years than it has in the last two in order to reach its target.”
"I will be elated if BT and whichever incumbent somehow manages that, but its chances appear rather bleak at this time,” Howdle adds.
The current government also floated the possibility of subsidising the cost of satellite broadband to reach those out in the wilderness, beyond the M25. Howdle welcomed the possibility of subsidies but said that ultimately satellite broadband was not the answer.
"Satellite broadband can cost up to ten times regular copper broadband or fibre, so if the government can even the playing field, that can only be a good thing.”
"However, there are many use cases that make satellite and copper or fibre broadband an apples and oranges comparison. Satellite tends to be far less reliable and the latency caused by beaming data to space and back makes many applications difficult, impossible, or at the very least downright irritating.”
"Without an unequivocal promise to roll fibre broadband out to every dwelling in the UK, there will always be a significant portion of our society at a digital disadvantage."