Conservatives commit to high-speed broadband action plan

The Conservative Party would ensure at least half of Britons had access to high-speed broadband within five years, and would make it a universal service as soon as possible after that.

The Conservative Party would ensure at least half of Britons had access to high-speed broadband within five years, and would make it a universal service as soon as possible after that.

Jeremy Hunt, the shadow culture secretary, said this morning, "This is achievable and we will be accountable for it."

High-speed broadband is essential if Britain is to take advantage of the potential of its creative sector, he said.

A Conservative government would aim to encourage the private sector to invest in very high speed (more than one gigabit/s) networks. The party is reviewing specific incentives but it would include a combination of deregulation and economic incentives.

Deregulating BT's OpenReach ducts so others could put in fibre to the home would be one option, he said. He would also encourage local councils, who are responsible for planning, to co-ordinate street repairs so that fibre could be laid, and to permit fibre on existing telegraph poles.

He saw a role for government in co-ordinating the creation of interface standards so that local fibre, cable and wireless networks could combine to ensure citizens had access to high-speed networks.

He said a low tax regime might be needed to encourage investment in both infrastructure and new businesses. Regulation and tax were the two biggest causes of failure among small businesses, "and most creative businesses are small businesses," he said.

Hunt said the Conservatives would support Lord Carter, who is due to present his report to government on how best to support a faster broadband market, but only if he made "concrete recommendations".

Hunt said the government had already produced four reports on broadband and another two are due this year. "We have had enough words. We need action," he said.

The creative sector is already contributing 7% of GDP, second only to finance. It was essential for the creative sector to replace the financial sector and the property market as economic drivers, said Hunt.

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