Chancellor urged to make it a broadband Budget

Gordon Brown could give a boost to the UK's telecoms sector by promising funds to broadband-enable schools and hospitals, according to one union

A demonstration was held outside the Houses of Commons on Tuesday to urge the chancellor of the exchequer, Gordon Brown, to use this week's Budget to help the UK's telecommunications sector.

Around 50 workers from struggling telecoms equipment maker Marconi gathered at parliament in an attempt to persuade Brown to bring in measures to speed up the take-up of broadband in the UK.

Marconi has suffered particularly badly in the recent telecoms slump, and the protesters -- all members of the Amicus union and employed at Marconi's factories in Liverpool -- want the government to commit more money for IT investment.

In particular, they want Brown to pledge to spend money to install high-speed Internet connections in public services such as hospitals and schools. Such a policy, Amicus believes, would create thousands of new telecoms jobs in the UK.

"Gordon Brown has an excellent opportunity tomorrow of giving a massive boost to Britain's telecommunications industry. What we want to see is him announcing investment in IT for schools, the NHS and the public sector in general," said Roger Jeary, Amicus national secretary, in a statement.

"This will in turn generate business opportunities for telecommunications companies such as Marconi and will start to fulfil government policy in this area. It's a win-win situation for the chancellor, industry and Amicus members," Jeary added.

The government has promised to make Britain the world's most competitive broadband market by 2005 -- a target that many experts believe will not be achieved. Recent price cuts from BT have stimulated demand for broadband, but tax breaks for companies who offer broadband in rural areas, for example, could still be very beneficial.

Gordon Brown is an unlikely candidate for the saviour of Broadband Britain, though, if comments recently made by the e-envoy are still accurate. Andrew Pinder, reportedly told a gathering of business leaders last November that the chancellor wasn't impressed by the fact that few firms are using broadband in areas where it is available.

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