Why Fast, reliable Broadband should be a Free Public Service
Updated: Mar 9
If you are reading this you are an internet user. Consider for a moment what you typically use the internet for. It will certainly include some of the following:
staying in touch with your family and friends.
Organising a night out.
Checking and managing your bank account.
Booking a hotel
Booking your holidays.
Registering to vote.
Renewing your passport.
Dealing with other government services.
Watching TV and films.
And a whole range of other things.
More and more you will have no choice but to do these things online as government and other organisations close down other options for interacting with them. Even Universal Credit claimants are required by the DWP to use internet services.
If you live in the UK then in 2018 you were paying on average £30.30 a month for internet access and up to £50 per month or more for what the internet companies deign to market as “fast broadband”. That is up to £600 per year for a service that is not up to scratch but is more and more essential to modern living.
And what do you get for this? One of the worst services in the world. Whilst countries like Japan and Korea have fast broadband available to 97% of properties the figure in the UK is 10%. Many people and small businesses alike in the UK are struggling with upload speeds of as little as 0.5mb/second.
Much of the UK’s internet access is still over old copper cable laid down decades ago by the Post Office and BT when they were public utilities. The current system of internet access is effectively a license to print money without any substantial contingent investment.
Ironically the UK could have been enjoying fast, cheap broadband for the last 25 years if the Tory government in 1990 had not instructed BT to stop laying down fibre optic cable and hand the development of the UK internet over to the private sector. The story of this disastrous decision is told in Techradar and is worth a read on its own.
Whilst we have been paying over the odds for internet access the companies and individuals who have built their businesses on the internet have done very well indeed.
Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon, is the first individual to amass a personal fortune of $1 trillion.Mark Zuckerberg has a personal fortune of $68.2 billion whilst his company, Facebook, is valued at $138.3 billion.Google is valued at $280 billionApple has also seen its wealth pass the $1 trillion mark.
None of these companies pay their proper share of tax. They all use various tax avoidance schemes by shifting their profits out of the country to avoid paying their fair share.
By taxing these companies properly on the profits they generate in the UK Labour can afford to bring the internet infrastructure into the 21st century and provide access for all at no cost.
In the long run this will benefit individuals and small businesses. It will also benefit these companies and others which operate on the internet as a modern infrastructure will be able to handle the more data hungry activities and applications that already struggle to work reliably for many people in the UK.
Free internet access is not only a good idea, it is an essential public service in the modern world.
This article first appeared on the Labour International Website. Reproduced with permission