Below is the full text of Jeremy Corbyn’s speech outlining Labour’s British Broadband plans.
Thank you for that welcome. At the start of this election I promised to put forward the most radical and exciting plan for real change the British public has ever seen. We haven’t even launched our manifesto yet, but our campaign is already electric. On the ground it’s bigger and more exciting than 2017. And I’ll let you into a little secret – when our manifesto arrives next week, it’s going to knock your socks off.
I don’t want anyone to be able to say, a few years into a Labour government, that nothing ever changes or that politicians are all the same. I want everyone to feel the positive difference to their own life when you have the government and the people working together, collectively, to take on the system and make life better for the many, not the few.
And do you know what? We’re so confident that’s what our manifesto will do that today we want to give you a sneak peek. A taster of the kind of fresh, transformational policies that will change your life.
So here it is: a Labour government will make broadband free for everybody. And not just any broadband, but the very fastest. Full-fibre broadband to every home, in every part of our country, for free – as a universal public service. And once it’s up and running, 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.
That is a policy for the many. Making broadband free and available to all will open up opportunities for everybody. It will put us at the cutting edge of social and economic change because what we’re about is building a country that’s fit for the future.
The internet has become such a central part of our lives. It opens up opportunities for work, creativity, entertainment and friendship. What was once a luxury is now an essential utility. That’s why full-fibre broadband must be a public service, bringing communities together with equal access in an inclusive and connected society.
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. And it will make our country fairer, more equal and more democratic.
The full-fibre broadband Labour will deliver is the gold standard. It is the fastest, most secure and most reliable form of broadband, using fibre optic cables to take data directly into people’s homes and businesses.
And it will help to boost 5G to people’s phones too. Full-fibre will deliver lightning-fast download times. It will put an end to patchy and slow coverage once and for all. And it will save the average household £30 a month on bills.
Britain’s broadband network is lagging well behind other countries. Just 8 to 10% of the UK has access to full-fibre broadband, compared to 98% in South Korea. Something clearly isn’t working.
This is core infrastructure for the 21st century. I think it’s too important to be left to the corporations. The most efficient and rapid way to deliver a broadband network fit for our times, and make it a genuine public service for all, is for the public to take control.
So under our plans, we will create a new public enterprise – and we’ll call it British Broadband. British Broadband will oversee a publicly-owned full-fibre network and deliver free broadband to every home, with a phased roll-out over ten years. To do that we will bring the relevant parts of BT, including Openreach, into public ownership.
By creating British Broadband as a public service, we will lead the world in using public investment to transform our country, reduce people’s monthly bills, boost our economy and improve people’s quality of life. And it will have national security benefits too.
To me, that’s common sense. The corporations have been unable or unwilling to roll out full-fibre fast enough, and they have little incentive to invest in rural and remote parts of Britain.
But under our plan, the priority will be those with least connectivity, mainly in rural and remote areas but also in some inner-city areas, unlocking new opportunities across huge swathes of our country.
And we will then move on to towns, giving a boost to local economies and making it easier for people to run successful businesses outside the big cities. And finally, we will complete the roll-out in the well-connected urban centres.
Ask people about their experience with private broadband companies and many will tell you about internet dropouts and hours spent on hold listening to Vivaldi, waiting to speak to an overworked and underpaid customer service worker who probably can’t fix the problem anyway.
Full-fibre will provide the most reliable service, and British Broadband will be properly staffed, with guaranteed jobs for everyone currently working in broadband. Under public ownership, key universal services can be run for the British people instead of for profit.
In July, when he was running for Conservative leader, Boris Johnson also promised to make full-fibre broadband available across the country – except he expected you to pay for it. But it will surprise nobody that this was just another case of Johnson’s signature move: the broken promise.
So what is he now offering instead? A low-budget option using old copper cables that are already out of date.
Johnson’s plans are yet another billionaire wealth grab, bunging public money to big corporations including Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin instead of putting the technology in the hands of the British people.
We need real change. But I know the question that will be on everyone’s lips: ‘how are you going to pay for it?’ Well, let me tell you.
The initial upgrade to our infrastructure will be funded through our Green Transformation Fund. And when it comes to the running costs, we’re not going to put that onto the British public, who have already forked out far too much for rip-off broadband.
Instead, a Labour government will 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.
I pay my tax. Everybody in this room pays their tax. Small businesses pay their tax. So why can’t the giant multinationals? They think they can get away with not paying their share. Well I’ve got news for them: not anymore.
Labour believes that the British people deserve the very best. As a country, we should be proud of our history of building treasured public institutions and services. In the 19th Century it was the public waterworks. In the 20th Century it was our fantastic National Health Service, freeing people from the fear of illness.
British Broadband will be our treasured public institution for the 21st century, delivering fast and free broadband to every home. Only the government has the planning ability, economies of scale and ambition to take this on. This is a mission for everyone to get behind.
Together we will build a new, universal public service delivering the fastest broadband free to everyone. This will be at the heart of Labour’s plans to transform the future of our economy and society.
Labour will put wealth and power in the hands of the many, while Boris Johnson’s Conservatives will only look after the privileged few. It’s time to make the very fastest full-fibre broadband free to all, in every home, in every corner of our country. It’s time for real change. Thank you.