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To Ensure 'Genuine Public Service for All,' UK Labour Party Proposes Free, Nationalized Broadband

"Instead of you forking out for your monthly bill, we'll tax the giant corporations fairly—the Facebooks and the Googles—to cover the running costs."

Opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn gives a speech on digitial infrastructure policy at an election campaign event in Lancaster, northwest England on November 15, 2019.

Opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn gives a speech on digitial infrastructure policy at an election campaign event in Lancaster, northwest England on November 15, 2019. Britain's main opposition Labour Party today promised free, fast broadband internet for everyone, in an eye-catching pledge for next month's election. (Photo by Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images)

The U.K. Labour Party unveiled a proposal Friday to provide free broadband internet to all homes and businesses in the country and partially nationalize the major telecommunications provider. Party leader Jeremy Corbyn justified the move by calling broadband "core infrastructure for the 21st Century" that's "too important to be left to the corporations."

Corbyn, in a speech on Friday, said that initial funding would come from Labour's proposed Green Transformation Fund and ongoing costs funded by taxing multinational companies. He vowed to "close down tax tricks used by giants like Google and Facebook, who make millions in Britain while paying next to nothing to the public purse."

According to Reuters:

Labour plans to nationalize Openreach—the fixed-line network arm of the country’s biggest broadband and mobile phone provider—as well as parts of BT Technology, BT Enterprise, and BT Consumer to create a "British Broadband" public service.

[...]

BT, with roots in an 1846 telegraph company, was once one of Britain's national champions and the flagship of Margaret Thatcher's privatization policy when it was floated by her Conservative government in 1984.

"The most efficient and rapid way to deliver a broadband network fit for our times and make it a genuine public service for all," said Corbyn, "is for the public to take control."

The need for such a network is evident. BBC News, citing data from regulator Ofcom earlier this year, reported Friday that just 7 percent of the U.K. has access to full-fiber broadband.

Corbyn, in his speech, called it "policy for the many" and promised to bring full fiber broadband first to areas with the least connectivity, and then move on to those better connected.

"And once it's up and running," he said, "instead of you forking out for your monthly bill, we'll tax the giant corporations fairly—the Facebooks and the Googles—to cover the running costs."

It's "a truly life-changing policy!" said Labour chair Ian Lavery in a tweet. "The internet is the single biggest source of knowledge and information in the world and should be available to everyone free of charge."

For his part, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the Conservative Party called the broadband and nationalization plan a "crazed communist scheme."

The fate of Labour's plan will become more clear after Britons head to the polls on December 12.

"The choice at this election could not be clearer," Corbyn said in an earlier statement. "A Labour government will be on your side, while Boris Johnson's Conservatives—who think they're born to rule—will only look after the privileged few."

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