The UK’s Conservative party unveiled its plans to improve the country’s Internet infrastructure this weekend, underscoring the significance of Internet-related policy in the forthcoming general election.
Shadow Chancellor George Osborne told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday that he believed the UK should become “the world leaders in superfast broadband” in order to stimulate economic growth.
“In the 19th century we built the railways; in the 20th century we built the motorways,” said Osborne. “In the 21st century, let’s build the superfast broadband network. That will create hundreds of thousands of jobs for Britain.”
He criticised the government’s commitment, made in the Digital Britain report, to enable 2Mbps broadband connections throughout the UK by 2012. “They have a woefully poor ambition,” Osborne said. “We’re talking about 100 megabits [per second], which is a big step forward for this country.”
Osborne said that the best way to achieve this would be “breaking up the BT monopoly… which holds back companies like Carphone Warehouse or Virgin”.
However, if market forces alone could not support the necessary investment, a Tory government might then use money saved by the BBC as a result of the switch to digital broadcasting infrastructure, due to be completed by 2012.
The Labour party said the Conservative party was simply “playing catch-up” to its own broadband plans.
BT is currently rolling out its Infinity service – based largely on fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) technology – which allows download speeds of up to 40Mbps. The service will be available to only 4 million homes by the end of 2010, but the company says it will available to 40% of the population by 2012.