Details on broadband from Conservative Party Manifesto
The Conversative Party Manifesto has now been released and as with the Liberal Democrats and Labour Parties we have extracted the relevant passages relating to broadband.
Page 19 We will deliver the infrastructure - the road, rail, airports and broadband – that businesses need.
Page 78 We will oblige all digital companies to provide digital receipts, clearer terms and conditions when selling goods and services online and support new digital proofs of identification. We will give consumers the same protections in online markets as they have on the high street. For broadband customers, we will make broadband switching easier and pricing more transparent.
We will ensure that consumers and businesses have access to the digital infrastructure they need to succeed. By the end of this year, 19 out of 20 premises will have access to superfast broadband and our Universal Service Obligation will ensure that by 2020 every home and every business in Britain has access to high speed broadband. We will work to provide gigaspeed connectivity to as many businesses and homes as possible. We will introduce a full fibre connection voucher for companies across the country by 2018 and by 2022 we will have major fibre spines in over a hundred towns and cities, with ten million premises connected to full fibre and a clear path to national coverage over the next decade.Broadband mentions in Conservative Party Manifesto
The 95% superfast broadband target is re-stated and a small amount of vagueness could be read into it, i.e. is deadline end of the calendar year (which we believe it is) or the financial year (which was what happened with the older 90% target). A reminder that high speed broadband has many definitions but in this case is referring to the 10 Mbps minimum speed of the USO.
A new connection voucher scheme aimed at business will be welcomed by industry, but how widespread the welcome is will depend on the conditions attached and whether it is national or limited to selected areas e.g. will it only be available in areas without superfast options already or will any business be able to use it to upgrade to full fibre no matter whether FTTP, Ethernet or a leased line. The comment on 100 towns and cities with fibre spines is a little odd, since work is already underway regulation to create an Openreach dark fibre product, and other operators already can provide dark fibre and business fibre connectivity from spines that criss cross the UK. Perhaps something more akin to the CityFibre network roll-out, of building metro fibre networks that fall short of the definition of passed by FTTP but are still much easier to connect to compared to traditional fibre leased lines.
Ten million premises of full fibre by 2022 actually is interesting, does it mean passed or take-up of the actual service. We suspect premises passed is the metric, since 8 years after GEA-FTTC launched we are still to pass the ten million mark in terms of take-up. Ten million premises passed sounds a lot but with existing plans for a couple of million Openreach, then a couple of million premises from Virgin Media are to be expected by 2020 so adding a couple of years and expansion by others including Hyperoptic, Gigaclear and CityFibre means 10 million passed is not impossible so long as everyone ups their game.
What is interesting is that no promises are made on funding other than a connection voucher for business, so the Conservative plan while not explicitly saying so may be hoping that the vouchers stimulate the roll-outs and avoid the need to sink further public money into full fibre roll-outs beyond the existing BDUK pots that recycles amounts as take-up increases.
Broadband switching has improved (even if it takes longer now in some cases) and further improvements to make it seamless when switching between different networks and not just the different providers on the same network are underway with Ofcom already. The bundling of TV, phone and mobile with broadband is what can make things more complex so rules letting people split bundles are perhaps what we can expect, and better switching between physical netwoks and improved number porting - though there will need to be safeguards as particularly in the business and home worker world keeping one connection live for a short period on a different line/technology is a useful backup in case the new service fails to install or does not live up to its promises.
A final word on the 'digital proofs of identification' mention this sounds very like an ID card for the online world and with age verification requirements for access to 'adult' content in the Digital Economy Bill and on-going concerns about trolling activities where people hide behind anonymous accounts we may see full verification become the norm if you want to contribute to social media rather than being a pure consumer.