Jeremy Corbyn has proposed a bold plan to provide free broadband internet access to everyone in the UK.
Labour believes the plan, part-funded by a tax on internet giants such as Facebook and Google, is a vote winner, combining a consumer-friendly pledge to cut bills with a commitment to taking on powerful corporations.
Outlining the proposal in Lancaster, however, Corbyn said it would guarantee what was now a basic utility, encourage social cohesion, bolster the economy and help the environment.
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 BT 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.”
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.”
The internet now has become an essential tool for people. Corbyn is right that the internet is now an essential utility and I applaud his move.
In the US private companies have carved out the market to create quasi-monopolies in many areas so that they can make big profits while providing sub-par service at high prices. They have fought tooth and nail those local communities that seek to provide broadband access to everyone.