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    General election 2019: Labour pledges free broadband for all

    This is a discussion on General election 2019: Labour pledges free broadband for all within the Sky news and announcements forums, part of the SkyUser Announcements category; https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2019-50427369 Note: This story is published here in the interest of promoting discussion, not to lend support to any political ...

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      General election 2019: Labour pledges free broadband for all

      https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2019-50427369

      Note: This story is published here in the interest of promoting discussion, not to lend support to any political cause.

      Labour has promised to give every home and business in the UK free full-fibre broadband by 2030, if it wins the general election.

      The party would nationalise part of BT to deliver the policy and introduce a tax on tech giants to help pay for it.

      Shadow chancellor John McDonnell told the BBC the "visionary" 20bn plan would "ensure that broadband reaches the whole of the country".

      But Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was "a crackpot scheme".

      The plan includes nationalising parts of BT - namely its digital network arm Openreach - to create a UK-wide network owned by the government.

      Mr McDonnell said the roll-out would begin with communities that have the worst broadband access, followed by towns and smaller centres, and then by areas that are currently well served.

      What is Labour proposing?

      A Labour government would compensate shareholders by issuing government bonds. The shadow chancellor said Labour had taken legal advice, including ensuring pension funds with investments in BT are not left out of pocket.

      As with other planned Labour nationalisations, he said MPs would set the value of the company at the time of it being taken into public ownership.

      Mr McDonnell told the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg that Labour would add an extra 15bn to the government's existing 5bn broadband strategy, with the money to come from the party's proposed Green Transformation Fund.

      Having already announced plans to nationalise water, rail and now broadband, Mr McDonnell said this latest plan was "the limit of our ambitions".

      A new entity, British Broadband, would run the network, with maintenance - estimated to cost 230m a year - to be covered by the new tax on companies such as Apple and Google.

      "We think they should pay their way and other countries are following suit," said Mr McDonnell.

      Labour has not yet completed the final details of how the internet giant tax would work, saying it would be based "percentage wise'' on global profits and UK sales, raising potentially as much as 6bn.

      Mr McDonnell said that if other broadband providers did not want to give access to British Broadband, then they would also be taken into public ownership.

      Labour has costed its policy from a report produced by Frontier Economics in 2018, which was originally produced for the Department of Digital, Culture Media and Sport.

      Broadband packages in the UK cost households an average of around 30 a month, according to comparison site Cable - which people would no longer have to pay under Labour's scheme.

      The party claims it would "literally eliminate bills for millions of people across the UK".

      According to a report from regulator Ofcom earlier this year, only 7% of the UK has access to full-fibre broadband.

      The government hit its target to bring superfast broadband to 95% of homes by December 2017 - at a cost of 1.7bn - but the internet speeds are significantly lower than those of full-fibre.

      How has the industry reacted?

      BT chief executive Philip Jansen told BBC Radio 4's Today programme Labour had under-estimated the price of its pledge.

      But he said he was happy to work with whoever wins the election to help build a digital Britain, although the process for implementing Labour's plan would not be "straightforward".

      He added that the impact of any changes on BT pensioners, employees, shareholders - and the millions of investors via pension schemes - needed to be carefully thought through.

      The company has disputed the cost of rolling out fibre broadband to every home and business, saying it would cost closer to 40bn than 20bn.

      The BBC's business editor, Simon Jack, said Labour's proposal had caught BT "off-guard", as Mr McDonnell had said in July that he had no plans to nationalise the telecoms giant.

      Following Labour's announcement, BT's share price initially fell by 3% before recovering slightly.

      Julian David, chief executive of TechUK, which represents many UK tech firms, said: "These proposals would be a disaster for the telecoms sector and the customers that it serves.

      ... And the other political parties?


      The Tories say the full cost of Labour's plan would be 83bn over 10 years, rather than the 20bn claimed by Labour, arguing they had greatly underestimated the cost of re-nationalising parts of BT, broadband roll-out and salary costs.

      Mr Johnson said Labour's plan would cost the taxpayer "many tens of billions" and that the Conservatives would deliver "gigabit broadband for all".

      He has previously promised 5bn to bring full-fibre to every home by 2025. But Mr McDonnell said the Conservatives' funding plan for improving broadband was "nowhere near enough".

      The Lib Dems called Labour's announcement "another unaffordable item on the wish list".

      The SNP called Labour's plans a "pie-in-the-sky" promise and said the Scottish government was putting 600m in to broadband.

      Could it work?

      Analysis by Rory Cellan-Jones
      Technology Correspondent

      All sides are agreed: The UK has fallen behind competitors in rolling out a fibre network - the gold standard where a fibre optic cable arrives directly into your home - and way behind countries such as Spain, Portugal and Norway.

      When he was running for the Tory leadership Boris Johnson described the broadband strategy of Theresa May's government as "laughably unambitious" and promised 5bn to hit what the broadband industry thinks is an extremely ambitious target.

      Now, Labour has come back with a plan that may be more realistic in timescale but is far more expensive in terms of state spending.

      What is not clear is what happens to the wider broadband market - from Virgin Media and Sky to the raft of fibre broadband firms that have sprung up in recent years.

      Labour is indicating that the companies "may want to come on board" with its scheme - but it is hard to believe that after years of complaining about BT stifling competition they will be enthusiastic about competing with a state-owned monopoly.

      The question for consumers may be who they should trust - broadband suppliers with patchy records on customer service or the state.

      The Australian experience


      By BBC journalist Phil Mercer

      Super fast, reliable and affordable - that was the broadband promise made to every Australian, who have been assured access to a new system by 2020.

      The National Broadband Network (NBN) is described as "one of the largest and most complex infrastructure initiatives undertaken in Australia."

      More than 6 million premises are already connected, but the quality of service is a lottery.

      Some customers to the state-owned company are delighted, while others complain the network is sluggish.

      There's a good reason for the disparity and it's down to the way that broadband is delivered. Some methods are much quicker than others.

      In 2009, the former Labor government in Australia pledged an NBN with efficient optical fibre cables direct to most homes and businesses.

      The current centre-right administration opted for a cheaper option that would be finished sooner, and chose instead a mix of technologies including optical fibre, copper wires, Hybrid Fibre Coaxial (HFC), fixed wireless and satellite.


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      Re: General election 2019: Labour pledges free broadband for all

      I heard "Oink, Oink, Oink" and looked up. Guess what I saw.

      General election 2019: Labour pledges free broadband for all-us-flying-pigs-2.jpg

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      Re: General election 2019: Labour pledges free broadband for all

      I would like to know where Labour are going to get all this money to pay for all there promises.....I know borrow borrow borrow more money and skint the country so we end up like Greece.


      Nobody is Perfect.....I am Nobody....Therefore I am Perfect

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      Re: General election 2019: Labour pledges free broadband for all

      Ok, for me it's nothing to do with finances, but purely down to quality and repercussions.

      Whilst many people will have a gripe about company xyz and move to company abc for their broadband, there is at least a choice. There is an incentive of a kind for each company to improve their service and give us, the consumers, something and work hard to improve it.

      If we all had free Broadband back in 2006, we'd still have ADSL and no one would even dream of 1Gbit Internet, let alone the 10Gbit Internet that is on the horizon for consumers.

      I appreciate that not everyone can afford to have their own broadband connection at home. There are some others who actually don't want it. There are many services that the Government wants to put on-line. In most cases, it's already happening. Personally I think all this is a dangerous mistake, but that's for another thread.

      What we need it to keep the UK with one of the most affordable Internet rates going. I believe that we also need to keep the competition and get more improvements to the whole infrastructure in terms of coverage and performance.

      As for Openreach being taken over by the Government, it's the one piece the BT didn't want to let go because they knew how powerful and profitable it was to control Openreach. Whilst we may know the current crop of party leaders today, the potential for the future is that we could have anyone. It's a big reason why nationalised industry fails, but not the only one.

      Perhaps someone should write a book about it all?


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      Re: General election 2019: Labour pledges free broadband for all

      While provision of fast broadband in rural areas would be welcomed by people who are currently being asked exorbitant four figure sums to have slow fttc installed, making the fastest internet access free to everyone is not the answer.
      There should be a level playing field where the same speeds and technology is available to everyone for a standard installation fee irrespective of whether they live in a large city or an isolated farm but totally free broadband would totally overwhelm the core infrastructure.

      A counter argument could be that it would be introduced slowly allowing support services the time to catch up. What would be the point in everyone having a one gigabit connection to the local exchange to then have a contention ratio in the hundreds back to your ISPs point of presence? There would still be fast areas and slow areas and to prioritise rural areas over urban areas for anyone other than domestic customers could only result in the decentralisation of commerce putting unexpected strain on Britain's road network, public transport and other services; to say nothing of the pressure to build on green belt land and even in national parks.

      Sorry if this just sounds like a rant but one man's utopian vision, if anything more than pie in the sky, could quite easily turn into a dystopian nightmare but don't worry as just like the plans to electrify the Midland Main Line it would probably all be cancelled in six months time.
      Scubbie likes this.

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      Re: General election 2019: Labour pledges free broadband for all

      What I forgot to mention is how affordable out Internet is when compared to the USA.

      The one country where a so-called free market exists is run by massive companies who work against the consumers' interests.

      Yes, we do need to improve things for those areas where their very remoteness has been a major benefit to their way of life in the past. Farmers are one of the main groups of people who come to mind, but I am sure that there are many more groups whom we can mention.

      For me, having the choice to switch between the different ISPs means that I can look at what I am getting, the service that they provide and much more. There are some good reasons why I chose to switch to Sky when I did. The shoddy service I was receiving from BT India was the main one.

      I have friends who have moved away from other ISPs. The level of service which that had been receiving was despicable.

      Currently, I am having issues with a certain Government department. Without going into personal details, I believe that if it were possible to have the same services provided by a suitable company then I wouldn't be having the issues that I have been having. Of course, there would need to be a choice of companies as when there is just one, they get to a point where they enjoy messing with the clients.

      Getting back on topic, if everyone were to get free broadband, what would be the incentive to improve the connection?

      Does anyone remember when Sky started to introduce improvements in ADSL2+ ? After a long time being limited to maximum connection speeds of 20mb, suddenly members were getting over 23mb. For those who were in slower areas, they too had major improvements. Their connection speeds increased as a direct result too.

      Yes BT introduced some of the same technologies, but that was several months later at the earliest.

      It has been purely because of all the competitors (TalkTalk, Sky, etc.) putting pressure on Ofcom that we've had improvements to consumer protections and also improvements to installations and repairs.

      We need competition in this industry.

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