Tories: next Google should be British
The Conservatives have promised 100Mbits/sec broadband by 2017 and to encourage a new generation of British tech companies as part of their technology manifesto.
The manifesto pulls together a number of pledges made in recent months, with the headline grabbing promise of a 100Mbits/sec broadband network chief among them.
In order to deliver these speeds the Tories claim they would “unleash private sector investment [and] open up network infrastructure, easing planning rules and boosting competition.”
However, should private sector investment fail – as it’s likely to do in rural areas – the Tories will use a proportion of the licence fee dedicated to the digital switchover to complete the network. The party has confirmed that it would scrap the Government’s controversial 50p broadband tax.
We will make the British government the most technology-friendly in the world, and meet our ambition that the next generation of Googles, Microsofts and Facebooks are British companies
BT is already contemplating letting rival ISPs lay fibre in its underground ducts, with analysts suggesting the company is hoping to force a similar concession from Virgin Media.
The Tories plans could also be boosted by Virgin’s attempt to deliver 50Mbits/sec broadband to rural areas using telegraph poles. If this proves successful, the company says that more than a million additional homes could be connected to its network.
According to the manifesto, this broadband network would create 600,000 additional jobs and add £18 billion to the GDP by making the UK the natural home of technological innovation. “We will make the British Government the most technology-friendly in the world, and meet our ambition that the next generation of Googles, Microsofts and Facebooks are British companies.”
Expenses and open source
Elsewhere in the manifesto, the Tories have promised to widen the scope of Government data published online, including monthly street-by-street crime reports.
MPs will be required to publish details of their expense claims online, alongside a list showing the salaries of the country’s 35,000 highest earning civil servants and any quango managers earning more than £150,000 a year.
Also on the cards, the Tories are promising to break down IT procurement projects into smaller chunks, paving the way for smaller businesses and open-source projects to compete.
However, the manifesto is notably light on details regarding the Government’s plans to tackle file-sharing – currently a major bone of contention with internet companies including eBay and BT.
“We recognise the need to tackle digital piracy and make it possible for people to buy and sell digital intellectual property online. However, it is vital that any anti-piracy measures promote new business models rather than holding innovation back,” the manifesto said.
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