In a major announcement today (Friday 15 November), Labour has set out plans to deliver fast and free full fibre-broadband for all by bringing parts of BT into public ownership and creating a new British Broadband public service.
The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has made the announcement in Lancaster, describing the new free public service as central to Labour’s plans to transform our country and economy, “bringing communities together in an inclusive and connected society.”
The next Labour government will undertake a massive upgrade in the UK’s internet infrastructure, delivering fast, secure, reliable internet connections for everyone and putting an end to patchy and slow coverage. This will boost 5G connectivity across the country. The roll out will begin with communities that have the worst broadband access, including rural and remote communities and some inner city areas, followed by towns and smaller centres, and then by areas that are currently well-served by superfast or ultrafast broadband.
James Bull, Labour Party parliamentary candidate in South East Cambridgeshire was delighted with the details of the proposals:
“As so many people and businesses know throughout our constituency, the internet connectivity is terrible. This is bad for people living in our isolated communities who need good, fast online connections to enable them to keep connected with services or loved ones, or to enable them to work from home rather than travel miles into work. The services relied upon by so many of the most vulnerable in our society are becoming digital by default. If you want to make an application for Universal Credit or social housing, you have to do so online. For many rural businesses, the connectivity is catastrophic as it slows up their ability to keep contact with potential clients, work online at the speeds required, and process orders. Talking to some of the many world leading businesses in the tech and biotech sector in our constituency, one of their main problems that they raise constantly with me is just how poor their connectivity speeds are, making it very difficult to compete with their rivals across the globe that have connectivity that is so much better than our own. We are lagging years behind and it is like a ball and chain around the brilliant teams working at these businesses.
“Things are so bad around here that some villages even got to the point where they clubbed together and set up their own internet service provider. For example, the villagers of Lode did exactly this after OpenReach refused to connect them to superfast broadband (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/broadband/10961754/Villagers-dig-their-own-superfast-broadband-network.html ). They should not have been in the position where they had to go to this extreme. Under Labour’s measures, we would ensure that the people of South East Cambridgeshire are fully connected to superfast and ultrafast broadband in the first wave of the roll out at no cost, as the roll out is starting in the worst affected areas of the country.”
The plan will be paid for through Labour’s Green Transformation fund and taxing multinational corporations such as Amazon, Facebook and Google, and save the average person £30.30 a month.
Only 8-10 per cent of premises in the UK are connected to full-fibre broadband, compared to 97 per cent in Japan and 98 per cent in South Korea. Almost 80% of adults surveyed said that they have experienced internet reliability problems in the last year.
According to research by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, a full-fibre broadband network could boost productivity by £59 billion by 2025; bring half a million people back into the workforce; and boost rural economies, with an estimated 270,000 people more able to move to rural areas.
The party’s plans could result in 300 million fewer commuting trips, three billion fewer kilometres travelled by car, and 360,000 tonnes fewer carbon dioxide emissions.
The party will also announce plans for a new Charter of Digital Rights – the strongest protection of data and online rights ever enacted. We will consult on its contents, which could include:
- Powers for individuals and collectives to challenge algorithmic injustice (where online algorithms cause disproportionate harms to particular groups);
- Powers for individuals and collectives to prevent the use of digital infrastructure for surveillance;
- Rights for individuals to protect access to and ownership of their data.
In his speech in Lancaster today, Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party, has said:
“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.
“It’s time to make the very fastest full-fibre broadband free to everybody, in every home in every corner of our country. Making it free and available to all will open up opportunities for everybody, at the cutting edge of social and economic change.
“By creating British Broadband as a public service, we will lead the world in using public investment to transform our country, reduce people’s monthly bills, boost our economy and improve people’s quality of life.”
John McDonnell, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, has explained:
“This is public ownership for the future.
“A plan that will challenge rip-off ‘out-of-contract’ pricing – and that will literally eliminate bills for millions of people across the UK.
“Every part of this plan has been legally vetted, checked with experts, and costed.“What we are offering in this election is real change.
“And what we’ve announced today is what real change looks and feels like.”
Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour’s Shadow BEIS Secretary, said:
“As Shadow Business Secretary, I know all too well the importance of strong digital infrastructure for businesses and industry across the UK.
“Imagine if all those currently shut out of the labour market, such as those with childcare or caring responsibilities, those unfairly disadvantaged due to disability or older people, could participate fully through free, fast internet access from wherever they are.
“If we are to be at the forefront of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and a global economic player, we must speed up the adoption of technologies across our economy.
“But this can only be done if the best possible digital infrastructure is in place.”