Labour has criticised the government for what it calls an unsuccessful rollout of superfast broadband in the UK, claiming that a focus on speed over widespread connectivity has cost the economy over £70m.
Speaking at the 2014 Parliament & Internet Conference attended by V3, Harriet Harman, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, criticised business minister Ed Vaizey for being "complacent" and "in denial" over the success of the government's broadband plans.
Harman claimed a lack of connectivity has caused frustration at Westminster and in the business world, and that the government is failing to address these concerns.
"The minister is currently sweeping these complaints aside, and simply saying to everyone that their concerns are wrong and the situation is marvellous," Harman said, who added that the government is coasting along with broadband rollouts.
Harman believes the government should have stuck to Labour's plans when it was in power to push for a widespread rollout of broadband by 2012, rather than focus on superfast broadband at the cost of blanket UK connectivity.
Harman said this would ensure the UK was a more equal nation: "Digital inclusion is essential," she said.
Harman also emphasised that the approach to communication and e-commerce regulations needs to be changed as the consultation process that feeds into the development of regulations is too slow to cope with the pace of a digital world.
"By the time we do this, the whole world has changed," she explained.
In a later session, Ed Vaizey responded to Harman’s attack by explaining the government did not believe that Labour’s 2Mbps broadband plans were good enough for future-proofing the UK internet infrastructure: “We took the view that a 2Mbit universal target wasn’t ambitious enough.”
Vaizey also responded to Harman’s claim that he was being complacent by citing the current results of the government’s superfast broadband roll out: “We are gaining momentum – more than a million homes and businesses across the UK now have access to superfast broadband speeds.
“We hope by the next six months we will pass the two million mark as well. So we are well on target to achieve our planned target of 90 percent [coverage] by 2016.”
Despite the disagreement, all three main parties appear to be in consensus over the need for technology and digital services to play a major part in the agenda of the party that holds power after the 2015 General Election.
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