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Tories in fast broadband plan

A CONSERVATIVE government could use part of the BBC licence fee to fund the rollout of superfast broadband to the majority of homes by 2017.

And the Tories pledged to end BT’s dominance of broadband by forcing it to give rivals access to its ducts, sewers, telephone poles and unused cables.

Shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt said that the plans would see Britain become the first European country with broadband speeds of up to 100 megabits per second.

And he said that if firms like Carphone Warehouse and Sky did not provide the investment, it would use part of the licence fee to provide low interest loans and matched funding.

The Tories are proposing to cream off 3.5 per cent of the BBC’s licence fee that is currently being used to fund the digital switchover, which will be complete by 2012.

With the licence fee currently at £142.50 a year, that would amount to around £5 a year per household, about the same as Labour’s £6 telephone tax, which the Tories have bitterly opposed.

Hunt said: “We are currently one of the slowest countries in the developed world for broadband.
High speeds will be available not just in our cities but across the rural areas that have been left behind for too long.

“These regulatory changes will create the right conditions for sustainable growth and ensure that the digital sector plays a leading role in a competitive, balanced economy.”

Charles Dunstone, chief executive of Carphone Warehouse, welcomed the plans which he said would give Britain “one of the best the digital infrastructures in Europe”.

He added: “We think it is right to be ambitious about the next stage of broadband Britain but it is important to realise that it’s potential can only be fulfilled if we enable a broad coalition of providers to invest in the infrastructure that will make us a global hub for technology and the creative industries.”

But a spokesman for BT said that Britain already boasted “one of the most competitive broadband markets in the world”.

And financial secretary to the Treasury Stephen‚ÄąTimms said: “Labour have already announced measures for rolling out broadband, which the Tories have opposed.”