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It’s election time again, and regardless of your personal political preferences, we thought a brief summary of what each of the major parties has to say about all things Internet related could be useful for our readers.

While we’re not endorsing any particular party in this article and are only reporting the details of each party’s published manifestos with regards to our industry, we found all the pledges to be  somewhat underwhelming. Unsurprisingly to most, as this is them essentially ‘selling themselves’ to the public they’ve clearly scooted over any details around funding or implementation and instead focused on headline-grabbing claims and pledges. Although, they too leave us somewhat flat.

Superfast broadband rollout pledges

A positive to take from this year’s campaign trail is that it’s good to see all three major political parties promising to ensure superfast broadband delivery to the whole of the UK in one form or another.

In summary, Labour has promised 30Mbps minimum by 2022 with hints of 300Mbps within 10 years, the Lib Dems made a similar promise of 30Mbps by 2022 but added a 6Mbps upload and unlimited usage cap with further 2Gbps fibre pledge and the Conservatives are already in the process of introducing their 10Mbps USO and completing their superfast broadband rollout.

However, it’s not anything new and exciting, is it? It’s all been discussed before. The Government recently threw out suggested amendments from the House of Lords to increase the current 10Mbps USO to 30Mbps due to funding and implementation concerns so how exactly do Labour and the Lib Dems plan to overcome these issues? Your guess is as good as ours! As for the Conservative manifesto, as we would expect with the existing Government, it’s just a confirmation of their existing strategies and plans – nothing particularly new there either.

Differing stances on the IPA

All three parties made reference to the highly controversial IPA in their manifestos. Unsurprisingly, the Conservatives stand by the Act (which they introduced) and discuss the initiatives they’re already implementing, such as ongoing discussions with Facebook and Twitter. The Lib Dems on the other hand state a clear opposing view calling for the current IPA to be rolled back. The least specific on this topic is Labour who appear to agree with the current IPA but state they would reintroduce ‘judicial oversight’.

Here’s the detail:

Labour Party Manifesto

The Labour Party manifesto promises a minimum 30Mbps broadband service for all via a USO (or USC, it’s not 100% clear) by 2022 and hints at a 300Mbps deployment within the next 10 years, stating:

“We will deliver universal superfast broadband availability by 2022. 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 invest to ensure all urban areas, as well as major roads and railways, have uninterrupted 5G coverage.

On day one we will instruct the National Infrastructure Commission to report on how to roll out ‘ultrafast’ (300Mbps) across the UK within the next decade.”

The final manifesto details follow a leaked version that contained slightly more detail stating: “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 30mbps service availability to all households by 2022.”

With regards to more controversial topics such as the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA), the manifesto simply states a slightly vague stance of:

We will always provide our security agencies with the resources and the powers they need to protect our country and keep us all safe. We will also ensure that such powers do not weaken our individual rights or civil liberties. When – as they sometimes will – these aims collide, the exercise of investigatory powers must always be both proportionate and necessary. We will reintroduce effective judicial oversight over how and when they are used, when the circumstances demand that our collective security outweighs an individual freedom. Labour will review the Prevent programme with a view to assessing both its effectiveness and its potential to alienate minority communities. In doing so, we will address the government’s failure to take any effective new measures against a growing problem of extreme or violent radicalisation.

Liberal Democrats Party Manifesto

Similarly, the Lib Dems also discussed extending broadband coverage and pledge a 30Mbps USO or USC (again – not confirmed but likely to be a USO as they mention a £2billion funding requirement) by 2022 with a 6Mbps upload and an unlimited usage cap. They also made a further future commitment – a 2Gbps fibre pledge stating:

Invest to ensure that broadband connections and services to be provided before 2020 have a speed of 2Gbps or more, with fibre to the premises (FTTP) as standard and unlimited usage by 2020 across the whole of the UK. SMEs should be prioritised in the roll-out of hyperfast broadband.”

The Liberal Democrats also discussed the highly controversial IPA, clearly opposing the current Government’s stance and pledging to “roll back state surveillance powers” by “ending the indiscriminate bulk collection of communications data, bulk hacking, and the collection of internet connection records,” stating:

As liberals, we must have an effective security policy which is also accountable, community and evidence based, and does not unduly restrict personal liberty. That’s why the Liberal Democrats will:

  • Permit intercepts where justified and permit surveillance of those suspected of serious crime and terrorism with proper judicial oversight.
  • Roll back state surveillance powers by ending the indiscriminate bulk collection of communications data, bulk hacking, and the collection of internet connection records.
  • Oppose Conservative attempts to undermine encryption.

They go on to state that they will “Support free media and a free and open internet around the world, championing the free flow of information.”

Conservative Manifesto

As the party currently in power, the Conservative manifesto doesn’t hold any surprises as most of their pledges are already in progress. They state:

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.

With regards to the IPA (Investigatory Powers Act) which they introduced, the manifesto states:

In harnessing the digital revolution, we must take steps to protect the vulnerable and give people confidence to use the internet without fear of abuse, criminality or exposure to horrific content. Our starting point is that online rules should reflect those that govern our lives offline. It should be as unacceptable to bully online as it is in the playground, as difficult to groom a young child on the internet as it is in a community, as hard for children to access violent and degrading pornography online as it is in the high street, and as difficult to commit a crime digitally as it is physically.

Where technology can find a solution, we will pursue it. We will work with industry to introduce new protections for minors, from images of pornography, violence, and other age-inappropriate content not just on social media but in app stores and content sites as well. We will put a responsibility on industry not to direct users – even unintentionally – to hate speech, pornography, or other sources of harm. We will make clear the responsibility of platforms to enable the reporting of inappropriate, bullying, harmful or illegal content, with take-down on a comply-or-explain basis.

We will continue to push the internet companies to deliver on their commitments to develop technical tools to identify and remove terrorist propaganda, to help smaller companies build their capabilities and to provide support for civil society organisations to promote alternative and counter-narratives. In addition, we do not believe that there should be a safe space for terrorists to be able to communicate online and will work to prevent them from having this capability.

To read the full manifestos see:

Have your say!

Let us know your thoughts about the political pledges regarding our industry by leaving us a comment below. Do you agree the inclusion of superfast broadband coverage is a positive step? Would you like to see more in terms of detail? Do you think the parties go far enough in their discussion of data collection, surveillance and the IPA?

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