LABOUR HAS ANNOUNCED the first big tech policy of the 2019 election, by pledging free broadband for all by the year 2030 - and not by loitering outside McDonalds, piggybacking on the customer Wi-Fi, either.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell told the BBC last night that a Labour government would raise £20 billion by taxing multinationals that make money from the internet. It would then use that money to nationalise parts of BT to provide free full-fibre broadband to all British households and businesses.
"First of all we'll issue bonds for shares," McDonnell told the Beeb's Laura Kuenssberg. "So, what we're doing is we're introducing a new tax - we've already discussed it publicly - which is on multinationals. Particularly those internet multinationals, the ones that gain their income from the internet - the Apples, the Googles and the Amazons of this world - and in that way we'll pay for the day-to-day costs."
Awkwardly, this goes against what the shadow chancellor was saying just four months ago:
Suffice it to say this goes quite a bit further than the only other broadband pledge on offer: the Conservative party's promise to invest £5 billion in getting fibre broadband to every home by 2025.
Which may partly explain why Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan was quite keen to trash it. "Jeremy Corbyn's fantasy plan to effectively nationalise broadband would cost hardworking taxpayers tens of billions," she said.
"Corbyn is clearly so desperate to distract from his party's divisions on Brexit and immigration that he will promise anything, regardless of the cost to taxpayers and whether it can actually be delivered. What reckless idea will be next?"
Pretty damning, though it would have been more so if she was actually standing this election.
Speaking of ex-Tory ministers, the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for business, energy and industrial strategy, Sam Gyimah, was also sharply critical. "Another day, another unaffordable item on the wish list," he said. "Wasting billions of taxpayer funds to nationalise BT won't solve the connectivity issues faced by so many of our rural communities."
Whatever the plausibility of the policy, it's certainly eye-catching. It'd be quite a turnaround if we went from a government looking to block porn, to another offering to push it into homes faster within a generation. But hey, that's politics. µ
Firm's first high-end speaker gets the thumbs up from us
Yes. Yes you can
A fantastic ultraportable that's almost devoid of innovation
Screen if you want to go faster