The Labour Party has committed to ensure all parts of the UK have access to “affordable, high speed broadband” by 2020 if it wins a majority in May’s election.
In its manifesto, published today, Labour promised to work with industry and the regulator Ofcom to increase private sector investment and reduce ‘not spots’.
Better availability and take-up of faster broadband speeds could add £17 billion to the UK economy and create 56,000 jobs by 2014, according to a 2013 government-commissioned report.
The current government promised superfast broadband will be available to 95 percent of homes by 2017, revised from an original target of 90 percent by May 2015.
In 2011 the coalition government said basic mobile coverage would be available everywhere by March 2015. However just two base stations had been built under the ‘Mobile Infrastructure Project’ as of last October and the scheme has been delayed until at least spring 2016.
Last October shadow deputy leader Harriet Harman attacked the government’s record on broadband, arguing it had been a mistake to focus on superfast broadband speeds over universal coverage.
Labour’s 2015 manifesto includes pledges to increase the number of citizens online, support startups and high-tech clusters around the country, and use digital technology to improve public services.
Labour said it would reduce the number of citizens unable to use the internet and help boost digital skills during the next Parliament. It will continue to support high-tech clusters, which have already “spun out hundreds of companies creating thousands of jobs”.
The manifesto promised Labour will “use digital technology to create a more responsive, devolved, and less costly system of government”.
“People will be able to feed back on services quickly and simply, making sure their voices are heard, stimulating improvement and saving on the costs of service failure,” it added.
The party promised to release open data, for example public sector performance data, “by default”.
The Conservative Party is expected to include commitments on broadband in its manifesto, due to be published this week.
In 2010 the party did not make any specific commitments on funding or deadlines. However it said it would require BT and other infrastructure providers to allow use of their assets to deliver superfast broadband across UK.
In 2010 Labour promised “virtually” every household would have broadband speeds of at least 2Mbps by 2012, make superfast broadband available “for the vast majority” by investing over £1 billion by 2017 and reach “the final 10 percent” using satellites and mobile broadband.