corbyn labour free broadband
Poverty and Exclusion

Man shall not live by broadband alone

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has pledged to deliver free fibre broadband to every home and business in the country by 2030. “What was once a luxury is now an essential utility,” the Labour leader explained. “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,” he added.

Labour estimate it will cost £20bn. But British Telecom, which would need to be (part-)nationalised in order to establish ‘British Broadband’, thinks the cost will be nearer £100bn. John McDonnell said competitors like Sky, Virgin Media and TalkTalk might “come within the ambit of British Broadband”, suggesting an element of mandatory appropriation if no agreement is reached. The cost of that is anyone’s guess.

Is broadband a more “essential utility” than water, gas or electricity?

Is broadband more essential than food?

With many families living in poverty and the increasing proliferation of foodbanks, isn’t food distribution too important to be left to charities and churches? If it is the case that “Only the government has the planning ability, economies of scale and ambition” to give everyone access to free broadband, why not nationalise Sainsbury’s to ensure that food poverty is eradicated and the shame of foodbanks consigned to history?

What else is “too important to be left to corporations”? If food and water are essential, what about shelter and clothing? Haven’t house-builders manifestly failed to provide enough homes? Doesn’t government have the planning ability, economies of scale and ambition to take this on?

And then free shoes, trousers, shirts and coats for all?

Or does this misunderstand and misrepresent what Jeremy Corbyn is offering?

Broadband isn’t the same as the Internet, is it? Broadband is the copper wire or fibre and ducts and stuff which permit Internet Service Providers to.. um.. provide an Internet service. So Labour are going to provide free rail-track to every home, but you’ll still have to buy your own train. Or – a better analogy – they’re going to lay shiny new plastic waterpipes to every home, but you’ll still have to pay for the water. So it’s not quite the Christmas give-away it sounds, is it? Jeremy Corbyn isn’t saying the Internet is an “essential utility”, but only the means of accessing it, which is a bit like saying the government will ensure that every household will have access to Sainsbury’s, but not every family will be able to afford to shop there.

So food poverty subsists, and foodbanks will always be with us.