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Harriet Harman re-iterates Labours 2 Mbps for all 2012 policy
Tuesday 27 March 2012 10:58:37 by Andrew Ferguson

It would appear that the previous Labour Government still believes its 2 Mega bits per second Universal Service Commitment for 2012 was the best course of action for the country according to recent comments by Harriet Harman the Shadow culture secretary.

"There is a growing digital divide between the haves and the have-nots, between the urban areas with the super-fast broadband and the rural areas with none.

This, from the party which said it cared about rural areas. In Labour's Digital Britain strategy, we guaranteed 2Mb broadband speeds to the whole country by 2012.

The Government can talk about ultra-fast, and super-fast, hyper-fast and mega-fast, all (it) likes but what is happening is the creation of a digital underclass – those in rural areas, the unemployed and older people already so squeezed by this Budget and this Government.

Broadband access for many will be made all the more difficult by cuts in libraries. According to the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, almost 600 libraries are threatened by this Government.

Shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman

The previous Government created the Broadband Delivery UK team in March 2010, giving it just over 18 months to implement a 2 Mbps USC if Labour had been re-elected, which looking at the time line since current BDUK projects started looks extremely unlikely to have been possible. Additionally in terms of funding the original scheme to use a 50p phone line levy to fund the USC, was abandoned a month before the General Election, leaving the BDUK with around £200m from Digital Switchover funds to implement the 2 Mbps USC.

The 2 Mbps USC would benefit roughly 10% of the population who currently connect at a slower speed than this, and Wales with its Broadband Support Scheme has been offering grants that effectively give people £1000 to getting a better broadband service. Given the deadline then the only feasible solution would have been satellite based solutions, with perhaps some roll-out of fixed wireless solutions.

It is unclear how much getting 2 Mbps to all is even worth in terms of reducing the digital divide, there is lots of evidence that while 2 Mbps is functional internet access for 2011 and 2012, given another couple of years it will prove to be insufficient. As we can see now, there will be by the end of 2012, 50% of the UK with access to 100 Mbps, and parts of the UK with access to 300 Mbps all the way up to 1 Gbps.

There is one school of thought that suggests, the roll-out of faster broadband should be delayed across the UK, until something like the 2 Mbps USC has been implemented. Alas while a noble idea, we suspect this would end up with the UK being forever stuck in the slow lane, with the commercial operators reluctant to invest in network upgrades due to government interference.

Jumping forward to the present, rather than looking back nostalgically, it is interesting to note that the current Conservative/LibDem targets are still to be met, with the BDUK pilots not producing anything visible yet, and no major progress expected until late 2013. Lots of investment has been talked about, but with the same amount often re-announced every few months, there will be lots of confusion over what is actually being invested. The most visible activity at present is local authorities taking surveys to try and show demand for services to attract the best tenders, the distinct danger here is that as in the past many people are keen to see a service improvement, but when asked to pay the extra £5 to £10 a month they soon vanish.

Comments

Posted by jchamier over 3 years ago
The question is if Harriet Harman has personally used 2megabit internet. I presume this is asymmetric, so 2048/128 or 2048/256 services.

Even the 3G world is higher than this, T-Mobile/Orange giving around 3500/400 today in much of the country, and 3 achieving 5000/2000 also.

Labour need to also think ahead, if you spend public money, you don't want to spend the same amount again within 2 years :-/
Posted by camieabz over 3 years ago
@jchamier

Politicians don't tend to think beyond the current soundbite these days, and they don't tend to care about the public paying twice for things.
Posted by Borisvon over 3 years ago
personally, if they offered me a decent service but wanted £10 or so more a month i would gladly pay and im sure a lot of other sub 2 meggers would also..
Posted by vicdupreez over 3 years ago
"but what is happening is the creation of a digital underclass – those in rural areas, the unemployed and older people already so squeezed by this Budget and this Government."

I am just wondering which government created this situation in the first place with the bank bailouts... I personally would have left them (the banks) hang out to dry, but maybe that is why I am not a politician...
Posted by mervl over 3 years ago
No power, no responsibility.
Posted by Rocket_Man over 3 years ago
As "vicdupreez" commenets all this talk about Superfast Broadband leaves rural communities out in the cold. Have a look at what Avonline plc offer in the way of satellite broadband, you be amazed !
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 3 years ago
£24.95 for 8GB of data per month (which is a special offer), usually 4GB. A maximum speed of 6.1Mbps.

Unlimited 10Meg with their sliding windows is £49.95.

While if I had no other choice I would use them, having seen the quality of service where on an expensive Ka service the upload was still poor, as in ADSL like. Then I am sceptical of satellite.



Posted by creakycopperline over 3 years ago
rocket man sattelite broadband is too little to late! overpriced paultry monthly allowance awefull speed. i get 5mbps unlimited for £35 per month and i bet its easy to hack to boot. not good enough.
Posted by vicdupreez over 3 years ago
I agree. Satellite broadband is NOT the answer for me either. I would suspect that for most people these days that uses their broadband as a communications platform as opposed to just content, this would not be suitable... I also do not care how fast ... scratch that... max is 10.2 meg... for 50 quid... not even worth a lookin... not with satellite ping times what they are... oh and 25gig per month is just a freakin joke... I get through that on my 6mbps dsl line in an evening... No Thanks.
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