“I don’t want anyone to be able to say, a few years into a Labour government, that nothing ever changes or that politicians are all the same.” – Corbyn
Outlining the proposal in Lancaster, Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said the proposal would guarantee what was now a basic utility, encourage social cohesion, bolster the economy and help the environment. In his speech, Corbyn said universal rapid broadband “must be a public service, bringing communities together with equal access in an inclusive and connected society”.
He said: “Fast and free broadband for all will fire up our economy, deliver a massive boost to productivity and bring half a million people back into the workforce. It will help our environment and tackle the climate emergency by reducing the need to commute.”
He said the service would become “our treasured public institution for the 21st century”.
“What was once a luxury is now an essential utility,” the Labour leader told an audience at Lancaster University. “I think it’s too important to be left to the corporations. Only the government has the planning ability, economies of scale and ambition to take this on.”
The plan would involve nationalising elements of British Telecom connected to broadband provision, forming a new company called British Broadband. Labour says it would cost about £20bn to roll out universal full-fibre broadband by 2030.
Corbyn portrayed the idea as a central element of “the most radical and exciting plan for real change the British public has ever seen” in the Labour manifesto, being launched next week, saying: “It’s going to knock your socks off – you’re going to love it.”
The shadow business secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, said that all affected staff would be transferred to the new organisation on the same pay and conditions, while other companies that bundle broadband into packages including services such as pay TV and mobile phones could continue selling such add-ons.
The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, said it is about basic social fairness: “It’s about large numbers of children being able to do their homework properly, and have the speed of connectivity.”
He also said parallel Labour proposals to bring the railways and water utilities into public ownership would allow better coordination for the work of laying the cables.
The initiative would be funded from a green transformation fund, with McDonnell saying funding would come in part from a tax on the giant internet companies, based on the proportion of global revenues they earn in the UK.
Openreach, the broadband network that is a distinct company within the BT group, is worth about £12bn to £15bn but the party said parliament would decide the rate of compensation. Labour has said it would issue government bonds to shareholders for all nationalisations.
17 Nov 2019