Labour has pledged to offer every person in the UK free access to superfast full-fibre broadband by 2030 if it wins the upcoming general election.
The scheme is expected to cost in the region of £20 billion – which Labour says will be met with new taxes levied on tech giants. It would also see the nationalisation of BT’s Openreach arm, to create a new entity: British Broadband.
Calling the scheme “revolutionary”, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell explained how the roll-out would first reach areas with the worst connectivity, before moving on to larger towns and cities, then finally those which are already well served.
Maintenance costs of British Broadband are set to be in the region of £230 million per year – which is where the tax on companies such as Google and Apple will come into play. The tech giants would be subject to a brand new bill worked out as a percentage of global profits and UK sales. This tax alone could raise up to £6 billion a year, if schemes adopted in other countries around the world were to be rolled out in the UK.
Currently, 95% of homes and businesses across the country enjoy superfast broadband. However, the average speeds are nowhere near as fast that are those which are achievable with a full-fibre solution – which today covers just 7% of the UK.
Whilst many Brits have welcomed the idea of not having to pay their broadband bills (which currently average just over £30 a month), some are still not wholly convinced. BT chief executive Philip Jansen told the BBC he was worried that Labour had “underestimated” how much its scheme would actually cost, and that implementing it would be less straightforward than it may first appear. However, he went on to provide his support for whatever form a “digital Britain” would take, pledging to work with whichever party gets the keys to Number 10 after December 12.