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Key Note or Late Note from Labour Party Conference
Thursday 30 September 2004 16:03:00 by Andrew Ferguson

This week has seen Tony Blair give his key-note speech to the Labour Party Conference in Brighton on Tuesday 28th September. Broadband got a single mention, a list of the main points is listed on BBC News Online.

Technology: An extra £1bn investment in science; more support for small business; broadband would be brought to every home that wants it by 2008 in an effort to end the "digital divide"

Tony Blair at Labour Party Conference, Sept 2004

With broadband becoming an ever larger industry, and becoming ever more important for businesses who are competing in a world-wide market, the Prime Minister seems to have offered very little. 2008 as a date for broadband-for-all seems almost like a mistake, since all but a couple of hundred households should have access to ADSL by the end of 2005. Even in areas where BT is not going to enable the exchange for a standard ADSL service, some Regional Development Agencies already offer subsidies on a number of satellite broadband services for SMEs wanting broadband. Generally of course one also does not expect to see much more the other political parties.

If anything a simple continued push to a total 100% availability of a simple 0.5Mbps service may hold back innovation and possibly create a much larger 'digital divide'. The divide that is most concerning at this time, is that between the UK and the other countries in Europe. Many countries now have broadband options that far exceed the common limit of 2Mbps in the UK, and the danger is the gap will widen if nothing is done to encourage vigorous roll-out and promotion of higher speed broadband services.

The year 2005 as well as probably playing host to the next General Election, also looks set to see a degree of LLU roll-out, oddly it seems likely that a lot of the roll-out will result in a number of exchanges having two or three LLU providers. We sincerely hope that this does not just result in duplication of the existing 0.5Mbps to 2Mbps services. But rather leads to more higher than 2Mbps products, and more variety in terms of the upstream speeds.


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