'Fastest broadband in EU' in election promise; Open source debated

UK Elections 2010: 2Mbps broadband nationwide now, or 100mbps nationwide seven years later; and will governments go open-source?
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

The run up to the UK general election is spattered with political hot potatoes, debates and changes afoot, with a bust economy and a range of issues which are drowning the political sphere with up to the minute issues. As with the 2009 US elections, the technology field has been widely debated and is set to be a major swaying issue between the main political parties.

The current opposition, the Conservative Party, is pledging to enable Britain to become the fastest broadband country in Europe if they win the election, attempting to make available 100Mbps to most residences by 2017. They also, according to the BBC, in line with launching their digital and technology manifesto elements, want to create a "next generation of firms like Google and Microsoft".

Basic background information The UK has two main political parties (and a third, which represents a small but significant minority) as does the US, Labour and the Conservatives, which in some way can be compared to the Democrats and the Republicans loosely, respectively, as per their political persuasions. The elections will be held at some point before June 2010, and though the date has not been announced, many expect it to fall in line with previous election dates in or around the 5th/6th May 2010.

The current Labour government created the Digital Britain report which laid out detailed plans to roll out 2Mbps broadband to every house in the UK by 2010, which is currently on track. The report also delved into anti-piracy methods which would potentially cut off pirates and illegal file sharers and peer-to-peer users should they become repeat offenders, which even some government departments including MI5 opposed. The broadband roll out have been paid for by a 50p ($0.75) tax on every landline household bill per month to generate around £200 million ($300 million) a year towards the program.

This is a similar project to the US National Broadband Plan which pledges to ensure that all US citizens have the ability to access high-speed broadband. Tomorrow, the FCC will unveil a national broadband strategy which will promote national infrastructure needs through education, jobs, health, energy and security, "laying the groundwork for investing in America's future".

It is fair to say that the next-generation technologies, even though the vast majority of consumers have been engaged with them for years already, will be rolled out as part of Government 2.0 on both sides of the pond.

However, the Conservatives policy on wider access broadband to rural areas could see their major voting constituencies missing out on the fast Internet access. Though the Conservatives will scrap the 50p tax on landlines per month, which was implemented to fund countryside broadband, the major areas of Conservative voting power could suffer most from the decision to hold back on subsidising rural super-fast broadband.


There is little mention of open-source technology in the Conservative manifesto, whereas the present Labour government seems relatively keen to promote the idea. This, proven almost, by the release of a large amount of raw data by the government onto the web, spurred on by World Wide Web creator, Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

According to the Telegraph, it was down to current Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who put forward the honour of bestowing a knighthood upon former Microsoft chairman, Bill Gates.

So in a nutshell, Labour will continue to support Digital Britain in nationwide broadband access, while the Conservatives will scrap the 50p tax demolishing Labour's plan, but instead hold off a few more years to enable everyone across the country access to fibre-optic connections.

But with open-source being somewhat embraced by the government in schools, perhaps the Conservatives would be better off trying to firm up some plans to enable open access to free, open-source software within their potential future government.

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