Liberal Democrats Reveal 2024 Election Pledge for UK Broadband

The UK Liberal Democrats have today become the first big political party to publish their manifesto for the 2024 General Election (4th July), which includes a couple of broadband and internet related commitments. But as usual with these things, there’s a lack of detail in terms of funding and timescales etc.

Prior to today we knew very little about the LibDems position on matters of telecoms and internet connectivity, which is largely because they haven’t, in recent years, really made it into a particularly audible talking point of their party. In addition, the party’s last big manifesto in 2019 was light on detail and included a vague commitment to “installing hyper-fast, fibre-optic broadband across the UK.”

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.

The 2019 manifesto also talked about prioritising SME businesses in the rollout of “hyper-fast broadband” and of ensuring that “all households and businesses have access to superfast broadband (30Mbps download and 6Mbps upload)“, which we took as possibly being a complementary reference to their desire for a stronger Universal Service Obligation (USO).

The big news today is that the LibDem’s 2024 UK General Election Manifesto (PDF) has just been published, but we couldn’t find any mention of mobile network connectivity. So far as we can tell from their website, the document contains only two commitments related to broadband and internet services:

1. “Ensure that gigabit broadband is available to every home and business, including in rural and remote communities, and support local bespoke solutions so that no property is left out.

2. “Ending the bulk collection of communications data and internet connection records.

The lack of any solid targets, funding or useful detail makes it hard to know how the party’s pledge on gigabit broadband differs, if at all, from that of the current Government’s £5bn Project Gigabit programme, which aims to achieve the same goal by the end of 2030 and is already testing various local solutions in some of the remotest parts of the UK. Suffice to say, this may be seen as merely pledging continuity with the current scheme.

The second point, which talks about the often controversial bulk collection of Internet Connection Records (IRC) by UK ISPs, is a reference to the 2016 Investigatory Powers Act (aka – “snoopers charter“) and the current Government’s work to expand those powers (here). Clearly, the LibDem’s are looking to return to a more pro-privacy orientated approach, which will no doubt attract support among those who feel the Government may have gone too far.

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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