Labour Sets Out UK Broadband and Mobile Plans in 2024 Manifesto

The UK Labour Party has today published their Manifesto for the forthcoming 2024 General Election, which is due to be held on 4th July 2024. As usual, ISPreview has taken a quick dive into the document to see what the party may be planning in terms of their broadband, mobile and internet related policies.

Since the last election, the party appears to have moved away from their heavily nationalisation focused “free full-fibre broadband to all by 2030” pledge of 2019 (here), which raised more than a few questioning glances and a fair bit of scepticism from within the industry, as well as more widely. But today our focus is firmly on 2024 and not 2019.

NOTE: Ofcom reports that 80% of the UK could already access a gigabit-capable broadband network in Jan 2024 (here), while geographic 4G coverage stands at between 81-88% for all operators and 85-92% of UK premises can get outdoor 5G coverage by at least one operator.

Until today, we haven’t really been able to gleam much detail about what position the party would take for the election. But Labour has previously signalled that they might continue to support the current Government’s existing £5bn Project Gigabit broadband roll-out programme (i.e. aiming for 85% gigabit coverage by 2025 and “nationwide” [c.99%] by 2030).

The party has also previously spoken of working with Ofcom to try and encourage greater infrastructure sharing or co-operative build between network operators, which would have to be carefully balanced to avoid any unintended damage to competition.

In addition, Labour indicated in 2023 that it would aim to foster an “industry wide social tariff for low-income families” and do more to tackle mid-contract price hikes and loyalty penalties etc.

Labour’s 2024 General Election Manifesto

The good news today is that Labour’s 2024 UK General Election Manifesto (PDF) has now been published. But given all the previous talk above, we were a little bit surprised to find how light it is on matters of broadband and mobile policy. Across the whole document, we could only find one single paragraph on the subject, which makes for quite a stark contrast with the last election:

In an ever more connected world, Britain’s communication network is also vital. Under the Conservatives, investment in 5G is falling behind other countries and the rollout of gigabit broadband has been slow. Labour will make a renewed push to fulfil the ambition of full gigabit and national 5G coverage by 2030,” said page 31 of the document.

On the one hand, that talk of making a “renewed push” sounds positive, but on the other hand they don’t define what this actually means and how it will differ. The approach does at least appear to support the aforementioned idea that they might not be intending to make any major changes to Project Gigabit itself, which is probably a good thing in this case, as that tends to require new reviews and thus delays (i.e. the risk of making that 2030 target even harder to hit).

So far, none of the manifestos we’ve seen being released have included any big surprises or solid new commitments, which is a bit disappointing.

NOTE: Readers should always take political pledges, from any party, with a pinch of salt until there’s more solid detail (something manifestos often lack). We also ask readers who comment on these manifestos to kindly avoid the usual level of toxic and abusive political commentary that sadly sometimes flows from such debates (such comments may not be approved).

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