The Labour Party has pledged to give free superfast fibre broadband to every household and business in the UK if it is elected next month.
Jeremy Corbyn is expected to announce plans today that would see parts of BT renationalised to carry out the national digital infrastructure project.
The scheme will involve the creation of a new public service, British Broadband, charged with overseeing the multi-billion-pound installation project. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said the pledge is “a plan that will challenge rip-off ‘out-of-contract’ pricing” and will “literally eliminate bills for millions of people across the UK”.
Initially, the roll-out of broadband services will commence in areas and regions that contend with some of the worst broadband access. This will include rural and remote communities across the country, as well as in some parts of major cities. In total, Labour said it plans to deliver the superfast broadband services to the whole country within the space of ten years.
- Scotland can set a global example with sustainable data centres
- Hacker group claims responsibility for Labour DDoS attack
- Meet the finalists for the Startup of the Year Award 2019
In a speech today in Lancaster, Corbyn is expected to say: “A new public service delivering the fastest broadband free to everyone is at the heart of Labour’s plans to transform the future of our economy and society.
“The internet has become such a central part of our lives. It opens up opportunities for work, creativity, entertainment and friendship. What was once a luxury is now an essential utility. That’s why full-fibre broadband must be a public service, bringing communities together, with equal access, in an inclusive and connected society.”
He will add: “It’s time to make the very fastest full-fibre broadband free to everybody, in every home in every corner of our country.”
Critics have questioned how Labour proposes to pay for the scheme, which could cost upwards of £15 billion along with £5bn in funding already committed by the Conservative government.
Under Labour plans, the broadband scheme will be funded through new taxes imposed on large corporations such as Facebook, Google or Amazon. Additional cash will be provided through Labour’s Green Transformation fund, the part said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also criticised the pledge, stating that it is a “crackpot scheme that would involve many, many tens of billions of taxpayers’ money nationalising a British business”.
TechUK CEO Julian David claimed the proposals would be a “huge set back for the UK’s digital economy” and fraught with difficulties.
He said: “These proposals would be a disaster for the telecoms sector and the customers that it serves. Renationalisation would immediately halt the investment being driven not just by BT but the growing number of new and innovative companies that compete with BT.
“Full-fibre and 5G are the underpinning technologies of our future digital economy and society. The majority of the estimated £30bn cost for full-fibre is being borne by the private sector. Renationalisation would put this cost back onto the taxpayer, no doubt after years of legal wrangling, wasting precious time when we can least afford it.”