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The Hot Political Topic; the Internet

17 · APR ·2015

The election is just around the corner, we ask why aren’t the competing parties putting enough emphasis on the UK’s superfast infrastructure when we are so far behind the rest of Europe?

The UK is sitting at the very top of the economic, military & democratic food chain, but for all our successes we sit 25th in Europe in terms of high speed infrastructure, to most this would then be considered fairly poor. The government is pushing to make broadband a "utility” to the general public, therefore we surely need to raise our game and expand our networks? In most of the recently launched manifestos people are talking about broadband & big data, there seems to be little on infrastructure.

Looking at the individual parties, UKIP haven’t emphasised that topic very much in their manifesto, but the points they did discuss seem to fit fairly well with their core policies and beliefs. They support surveillance and security heavily as we know and want a new Director of National Intelligence to co-ordinate our intelligence agencies and the data flowing between, but little in terms of infrastructure & real investment into improvement.

The Green Party has made a comment that appears to be aimed at a few key but unnamed Tier 1 providers, “Ensuring all people can get online by obliging telecommunications providers to provide high-speed broadband to all homes and premises in the UK”. A tough task for sure, one that would require significant investment. Strategies are also being worked on by BT for example, to combat coverage and expansion, coupled with the BDUK scheme and super connected cities schemes. Maybe the Green Party agree that the current policies are working and just require comments rather than promises.

Labour “commits” to maximising private investment into the UK infrastructure supporting what they call “the beginning of an internet revolution”. The manifesto goes into some detail on “open data by default”, but not offering any specific insights into plans to support the underlying technologies that will ultimately support and potentially determine the success of much of what they want to do.

The Conservatives on the other hand did put some specific emphasis on the topic, albeit not far different to the existing strategy with the current coalition. The last manifesto talked about scrapping the 50p phone line tax that never really kicked off by Labour. It also then pushed BT & other large carriers to open up ducts to other carriers and suppliers. This eventually all morphed into the BDUK scheme we have today. The Conservatives have put some new goals together for the BDUK teams. Important points include the extension of the connection voucher scheme offering business up to £3000 offsetting capex associated with 20Mb/s + products. Providing basic (2Mb/s) broadband to all homes by 2016 & Improving public Wi-Fi in large cities across the UK. There are many other points made by the BDUK scheme and those are important examples that are likely to have an impact. Other parties seem to put more focus on data rather than infrastructure, a very different.

It appears that not very many parties consider this a hot topic for the manifesto; it could be perceived that the conservatives have to be seen to support the schemes they currently work on. It could also be that politics seems to put more focus on net neutrality and making the internet and its content more available, rather than putting focus on the networks themselves. It seems to be considered as a tick box in the manifesto for all parties, with little divergence between their policies or indeed existing policies. This could be seen as surprising – the UK still lags behind the rest of Europe and an extension of existing policies does not hold the promise of helping us catch up anytime soon. Fluidata would like to see some of the parties commit to creating foundation which would be more fertile to alternative network solutions.

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Posted by Sanita Karra