The Green Party has this week published their Manifesto for the 2019 General Election and the Brexit Party doesn’t plan to do one, although in both cases we have at least been given a very rough indication of what to expect in terms of their internet connectivity and broadband policies.
At the time of writing the only major party – other than the one currently in Government (Conservative Party) – to announce their broadband policies for the looming election has been the UK Labour Party (here), which with their plans for a root and branch style public nationalisation has proven to be extremely divisive.
NOTE: Readers should always take political pledges, from any party, with a pinch of salt until there’s more solid detail (something manifestos always lack).
So how do two of the smallest parties stack up in this competition? We’ll start with the Greens.
Green Party Pledges on Broadband
According to the Green manifesto (here), the party is pledging to “better connect rural communities through reliable broadband and mobile internet, delivered through councils who understand local connection needs” and they intend to “roll out high speed broadband.”
Unfortunately that’s all we get. No definition of what “high speed” means, no timescale or targets, no clear pledge of funding or any real detail to flesh out the promise. In fairness smaller parties rarely give much detail on their approaches to such things but nevertheless this is quite vague.
On the other hand the focus on rural communities is to be welcomed, not least since those do tend to represent some of the most deprived areas. On the other hand almost everybody in this political battle is vying to support an outside-in style approach to deployment (i.e. tackling the hardest rural areas at the same time as the easiest urban ones) and so it’s not that unique.
Brexit Party Pledges on Broadband
As stated earlier, the Brexit Party doesn’t plan to put out a manifesto, although contrary to popular belief they aren’t just a single issue political movement. Indeed the policy page on their website talks about scrapping HS2 (high speed trains) and using funds from that, as well as some of the money that they claim the UK will no longer have to pay the EU, in order to fund a number of areas including internet connectivity.
The key pledge is as follows: “Invest in digital infrastructure – now a vital personal utility – to provide free base level domestic broadband for everyone and free Wi-Fi on all public transport.” Quite a lot of public transport already has free WiFi and this aspect isn’t particularly eye catching, although the promise to provide “free base level domestic broadband for everyone” may carry more interest.
Sadly there are no details on how such a free service might be delivered, what speeds will it offer, exactly how much funding will go towards it or when this might be completed. Say what you like about Labour’s proposal for free full fibre, which has certainly attracted plenty of controversy, but at least they managed to flesh that out with a little bit of context and detail. The idea of a free service will of course be attractive to some.
At this point the Brexit Party has not indicated a particular tendency toward the public nationalisation route, like Labour, and that means they’ll have to find a way of working with the industry, which will be a tough sell. The competitive market doesn’t much like competing with free stuff and that may risk discouraging investment, particularly if they only deliver it via existing networks (i.e. making the migration harder)
Overall neither the Green Party nor Brexit Party are offering much information on their broadband policies, which makes them difficult to analyse. On the other hand nothing that they do say is particularly earth shattering, at least not until we get some detail and that seems – short of a shock election victory – very unlikely.
Admittedly this election is about much more than broadband (Brexit is the dominant topic, as well as the NHS etc.) and as such issues of internet connectivity will inevitably be significant less important to voters this time around than in previous such events. Now back to waiting for the other parties to publish their manifestos.