Labour & Coalition MPs clash over flagging UK internet

T3 ask Coalition Government and Labour MPs if consumers are still being misled on broadband speeds and if slower internet speeds are hurting the economy

The state of the internet in the UK is a source of much frustration to many Britons, many of whom feel they are not getting the speeds they are paying for – particularly in rural or suburban areas which tend to lag behind the speeds available to those in major cities.

While the Coalition and Labour seem to agree on the importance of a better internet in the UK, they disagree on how much progress is being made.

The Government’s Communications Minister Ed Vaizey told T3: “The Internet has revolutionised our lives by creating a vast new world of communication and entertainment. It is essential for the UK economy that businesses have proper Internet access.

He went on to say: “Private companies will take superfast broadband to around two thirds of the UK. But the Government will not allow a third of the country to be left behind struggling with dial-up speed Internet access.

"That is why we are investing £530 million to help take superfast broadband to the areas the market alone will not go to. We want 90 per cent of homes and businesses to have access to superfast broadband and everyone to have access to 2Mbps.”

Sounds positive enough. However Labour claims it had much more ambitious plans for getting the country up to speed before it was voted out of office.

Chi Onwurah, Shadow Minister for Science and the Digital Economy, told us: “Labour promised to deliver 2Mbits broadband to everyone by the end of this year, using the money left over from digital switchover.

"The Coalition Government preferred a vaguer and further off target – the best superfast broadband in Europe by 2015. It’s not clear what that means, but it certainly means disappointment for those struggling to get a decent connection.”

Regulation

There has been a bit of movement recently in terms of what Internet Service Providers are allowed to advertise as ‘average speeds’. Firms can now only sell a service as having a certain speed of connection if a minimum of ten per cent of customers are actually capable of receiving that. 

At the point this Ofcom ruling came into effect, it resulted in a significant drop-off of advertised speeds, presumably highlighting how few people were able to get many advertised speeds in the first place

This is certainly a step in the right direction, but the market still isn’t what you’d call crystal clear.

And Labour warns more regulation on the market could be required: “The public need to be better educated about what speeds are available, what the broadband firms’ claims actually mean, and what is actually being delivered,” added Onwurah.

“I’m glad to see the growth of speed test sites and broadband speed reporting. Broadband firms need to learn that it pays to be more open and transparent. Otherwise there may be a need for further regulatory action… We should be moving to more transparent and more accurate metering.”

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