The Labour Party has made some ambitious tech promises in its leaked pre-election manifesto — but it doesn’t say where it will get the funding from.
The pledges include:
- Universal superfast broadband: Labour promises that everyone will get 30mbps by 2022
- “Uninterrupted” 5G coverage but only on railways and roads
- A digital ambassador to act as a go-between between tech firms and government
The 43-page pre-election manifesto leaked last night, and Labour hasn’t confirmed whether it’s the real deal.
The document lacks specifics — particularly on where Labour will dredge up the money to improve the nation’s broadband and mobile infrastructure. The current government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) project is already a taxpayer-subsidised, £1.7 billion effort to bring superfast broadband to 95% of households, and basic broadband access to everyone. BT has controversially taken most of that funding to put in new infrastructure. Bringing superfast broadband to rural areas is particularly difficult, and the government already offers subsidies to properties that have to pay for satellite broadband.
There are similar questions with 5G. No one’s actually worked out the standards for 5G yet and even when it comes, it will probably cost more to implement than 4G. People are also predicting that 5G will commence rollout in the UK by 2020. It’s unlikely Labour could fulfil this particular pledge before it’s time for the next General Election. Finally, there’s the fact that around half of the UK can’t even access 4G consistently, according to Which?.
Here are the key sections from the leaked pre-election manifesto, emphasis ours:
Universal superfast broadband
We will deliver universal superfast broadband availability by 2022. Few things are more crucial to businesses and our economy than a fast and reliable internet connection, but 3 million households and businesses have been left incapacitated by slow internet. We will deliver a universal superfast 30mbpsservice availability to all households by 2022. The Conservative commitment to just 10mbps will see the
400,000 small businesses and nearly two million homes left with substandard broadband well into the next decade.
Uninterrupted 5G mobile coverage
In December, the National Infrastructure Commission ranked the UK 54th in the world for 4G coverage and said the average user could get a signal “barely half the time”. That isn’t just frustrating, it is increasingly holding British business back as more and more of our economy requires a connected workforce.
Labour will improve mobile internet coverage and expand provision of free public wi-fi in city centres and on public transport. We will improve 4G coverage and will invest to ensure all urban areas as well as major roads and railways have uninterrupted 5G coverage.
The digital ambassador
We will appoint a Digital Ambassador to liaise with technology companies to promote Britain as an attractive place for investment and provide support to startups to scale world class digital businesses. The UK lags behind other countries in the extent to which our companies scale-up, with research suggesting that many of our companies have stagnant growth despite their best aspirations. … Our Digital Ambassador will help to ensure businesses are ready to grow and prosper in the digital age.