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BBC might pay for Tory broadband promises

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Mandybill minister Stephen Timms has attacked Tory promises of "superfast broadband" as "hopeless" and lacking in funding.

His comment, which was characteristically posted on Twitter, followed the Conservative party's launch of its technology manifesto earlier today.

"Conservative broadband policy hopeless. Minor regulatory tweaks, already in hand, not the answer. Funding needed, & soon," retorted Timms.

At lunchtime today, the Tories promised the UK would be "the first country in Europe to extend superfast 100 mbps broadband across most of the population".

For that to happen, the David Cameron-led party will first need to win the election, then convince the private sector to invest in its plans. But if all else fails the Tories admit that they could always tap into the BBC licence fee.

"If the market does not deliver superfast broadband in certain areas, we will consider using the proportion of the licence fee dedicated to digital switchover to finance superfast broadband roll out under the new BBC licence fee settlement, starting in 2012," the party breathlessly claimed.

"This amount would be leveraged to maximise the investments made, either by making it available as loans or on a matched funding basis."

Open Rights Group executive director Jim Killock had earlier called on the Tories to stop falling over their feet when it comes to broadband promises.

"These progressive ideas stand in stark contrast to the actions of the Conservative party today, supporting disconnection and threats of self-censorship in the Digital Economy Bill," he said.

"Let’s be clear: trying to get everyone online and building a society dependent on the internet is a policy that is totally contradicted by a policy of disconnection as a punishment for civil copyright infringement. And Conservative support for poorly worked out BPI-drafted proposals for web blocking looks ignorant and destructive." ®

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