Labour calls on Tory-led Government to lift Britain out of the slow lane of broadband access
Labour has today called on the Tory-led Government to reassess their plans to roll out universal broadband. Universal broadband is a key economic and social utility on which many businesses and households rely on a daily basis.
Labour had committed to universal broadband in place by the end of 2012, recognising the economic importance of universal internet access for business to drive growth and stay competitive. But now the Tory-led Government have pushed back Labour’s broadband plans to 2015, leaving 18.1% of the population without the universal access for up to another three years. The EU Commission committed to guaranteeing all EU citizens by 2013, a target the Government are going to miss.
The Tory-led Government have given responsibility for implementing universal broadband to local authorities, which could lead to a patchwork of provision from area to area. Businesses could end up in a postcode lottery for universal broadband, hindering their ability to compete and grow in a modern marketplace. Ministers need to implement a national strategy that addresses this issue and rolls out universal broadband as soon as possible.
Last week the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that failing to act on universal broadband would be a ‘handbrake on growth.’ But without allowing everyone to access the most basic internet access a full three years after Labour’s plan, the Tory-led Government are doing exactly that.
Ian Lucas MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Industry and the Digital Economy, said:
“Universal broadband is not simply a useful tool for households but is essential to the ability of the United Kingdom to stay competitive and achieve strong growth. Areas with universal broadband access are more likely to attract investment due to the key infrastructure for competitiveness and growth being in place.
"With 18% of the population in low speed areas, the Tory-led Government need to reassess their plans to delegate implementation to local authorities. This is a major national infrastructure issue like the road and rail networks, and will define how well Britain can compete in the international market.
"The Tory-led Government urgently need to tell thousands of businesses and households when they can expect to be given the vital high speed service needed for the coming years.”
The problem is most acute in rural areas, which on average have less than half the speed of urban areas. Rural areas need to diversify to continue to be competitive, but this hinges upon being able to use online communication and resources. Without universal broadband rural businesses will be held back from competing in the online marketplace.