Labour pledges free broadband for every household

Party’s promise to eliminate bills for millions dismissed by Tories

John McDonnell
(Image credit: Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)

Every household will be offered free full-fibre broadband by 2030 if Labour wins the December election, the party has announced.

In a speech today, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will say: “A new public service delivering the fastest broadband free to everyone is at the heart of Labours plans to transform the future of our economy and society.”

Broadband packages in the UK cost households an average of around £30 a month, which people would no longer have to pay under Labour's scheme. Labour says it would “literally eliminate bills for millions of people across the UK”.

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The party would part-nationalise BT to deliver the policy and introduce a tax on tech giants to help pay for it. The roll-out of free broadband would begin with communities that currently have the worst broadband access, followed by neighbourhoods that are currently well served.

Labour said the tax on internet giants would be based “percentage wise” on global profits and UK sales, raising potentially as much as £6bn. The Guardian says “party strategists” are hoping that such an “eye-catching consumer offer to voters” will help narrow the poll gap with the Tories.

Broadband has become a battleground in the election, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised £5bn to bring full-fibre to every home by 2025.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the Tories’ funding plan for improving broadband was “nowhere near enough” and would leave the UK falling further behind other countries.

Speaking to the BBC, he said Labour’s “visionary” £20bn plan would “ensure that broadband reaches the whole of the country”. However, the Conservatives said it was a “reckless” and expensive “fantasy plan” and the Lib Dems said it was “another unaffordable item on the wish list”.

The BBC’s business editor, Simon Jack, said Labour’s proposal had caught BT “off guard”, as McDonnell said earlier this year that he had no plans to nationalise the telecoms giant.

BT chief executive Philip Jansen said he was happy to work with whoever wins the election to help build a digital Britain but his company says the cost of rolling out fibre broadband to every home and business would be closer to £40bn than £20bn.

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