What the Tories pledge on IT and the Net

A good kicking for Oftel, that's what

The Conservative Party is blaming the New Labour Government for delays in opening up Britain's telecoms network to competition and has pledged it will conduct an urgent review of the situation if elected.

The promise of yet more protracted jaw-jaw and the resulting additional delays is laid out in the Tory's Business Manifesto.

It claims: "Broadband technology is the next great advance in the communications revolution.

"The UK is lagging behind Asia, the USA and most of Europe in broadband penetration.

"Government policy has resulted in delays in opening up the local telecommunications network to competition.

"The next Conservative government will initiate a review of the telecoms market structure to ensure fair and open access to local networks."

Trade and Industry spokesman, Alan Duncan toldThe Register that any review would be "just the beginning" and that "rapid and definitive action would be taken" to rescue Britain from a broadband black hole.

He described the current development of broadband in Britain as "haphazard" and said telecoms regulator, Oftel - responsible for overseeing Local Loop Unbundling (LLU) - needed "a good kick".

Elsewhere in the Business Manifesto the Tories warn that over regulation will smother the IT sector driving skilled professionals abroad.

And while it backs the Government's Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), it does not accept the "enormously damaging record keeping and other unwarranted burdens the Act places on the IT sector" and would seek changes.

It also says it would repeal IR35 - a tax that hits many in the IT sector - describing it as a "stealth tax on the self-employed".

Elsewhere, New Labour is broadly sticking to the proposals chiselled out while in office including ambitious goals for broadband and the introduction of a new super communications regulator.

The Liberal Democrats have put their faith in LLU and competition.

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