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Any doubt over the importance of the high-speed broadband debate to the upcoming general election has been erased by Labour's latest investment pledge.

In a speech today, Gordon Brown attempted to regain the initiative from the Conservatives by vowing to provide every UK home with super-fast broadband services by 2020.

The Prime Minister acted quickly to outgun the Tory Broadband Manifesto, which earlier this month promised the provision of 100Mb broadband to the vast majority of homes by 2017.

In doing so, he effectively conceded that the government's 2Mb Digital Britain goal – identified last year – lacked sufficient ambition in what is a rapidly developing market.

Referring to super-fast broadband as "the electricity of the digital age", he claimed that web services must be "for all – not just for some".

The Prime Minister claimed that private sector broadband providers cannot be relied upon to bring enhanced broadband speeds to the whole of the UK, adding that a lack of public intervention would allow the country to "become split between a fast-track and a slow-track to the future".

Labour's new vision – still to be funded by the controversial 50p-per-month broadband tax - will involve ensuring, rather than hoping for, universal high-speed coverage, Mr Brown added.

"Faster broadband speeds will bring new, cheaper, more personalised and more effective public services to people," he stated.

"It will bring games and entertainment options with new levels of sophistication; it will make accessing goods and services immeasurably easier.

The Prime Minister also revealed that within four years, each member of the public could have access to their own individual public services homepage.

Under new plans, a national web portal would allow citizens to manage pensions and benefits, pay taxes and make appointments online, he explained.

Given the Conservatives' fierce criticism of the government's broadband policy, it will be interesting to see how David Cameron responds.

A further revision of his own party's digital plan is certainly not out of the question.

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