Prime minister Gordon Brown said in a speech this morning that the government plans to provide "superfast broadband digital power" to every home in Britain through a monthly 50p levy on each household phone line.
However, Brown failed to specify a date when this high quality broadband is to be achieved, and has been criticised for not defining "superfast".
"Superfast broadband is the electricity of the digital age. And I believe it must be for all, not just for some. We have already decided to commit public funding to ensure that existing broadband reaches nearly every household in Britain by 2012," he said.
"Now government must decide what action it will take to bring about universal access to the next generation of superfast broadband, simultaneously ensuring that the highest quality content is available to all.
Brown argued that faster speeds would improve democracy, make access to goods and services easier and help provide cheaper, more personalised public services. He also claimed that the new pledge will make Britain the "world leader in the digital economy".
He said that investment in digital industries will be key to the UK's economic recovery, and that more details about financing digital initiatives would be given in the Budget report to be unveiled by chancellor Alistair Darling on Wednesday.
Mark Jackson, chief editor of ISP Review, a consumer information web site covering UK broadband internet service providers (ISPs), argued that Labour's strategy lacks definition.
"Labour has again failed to define what 'superfast' actually means, which is important because plenty of existing broadband ISPs already use the same terminology to describe their services," he said.
"Existing services can often be very slow, and the lack of definition could lead to a lot of confusion between old and new.
"We call on the government to be clear about what it is promising, and to avoid using bland descriptions that could easily be abused when goalposts need to be moved. Next-generation access is a critical issue and one that must be treated with the respect and clarity it deserves."
Trade association the Internet Service Providers' Association (ISPA) welcomed Brown's proposals, but with serious caveats.
"ISPA believes government should focus on encouraging this investment in places where companies see it as not viable to invest, such as rural parts of the country, and help create a competitive market in these areas," it said.
"ISPA continues to question the introduction of the 50 pence broadband levy which punishes the success of ISPs in effectively reducing prices."
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