The Labour Party has unveiled a new pledge that will offer every home and business in the UK free full-fibre broadband by 2030 if it wins the upcoming election.
This would involve the nationalisation of Openreach - which is currently a distinct company within the BT Group - and the establishment of a new entity called British Broadband to manage the country's infrastructure. The cost of running the network would be funded through a new tax on major internet firms such as Google and Facebook, the party said.
In a speech delivered on Friday (November 15th), party leader Jeremy Corbyn said the internet has become a central part of everyone's lives, and is now an essential utility rather than a luxury.
"That's why full-fibre broadband must be a public service, bringing communities together, with equal access, in an inclusive and connected society," he stated.
The move indicates how improving the nation's broadband capabilities has become a key issue for politicians on all sides. Earlier this year, while running for the Conservative leadership, Boris Johnson described existing efforts as "laughably unambitious" and promised to rollout full fibre to all homes by 2025.
Since becoming prime minister, this target has been amended slightly, instead aiming to deliver 'gigabit-capable' broadband to all, allowing for the use of alternative technologies where necessary, with no specific end date.
Meanwhile, Labour's new proposals to bring broadband into the public sector and eliminate bills for millions of households - with the average home internet bill currently standing at around £30 a month - would mark a huge transformation for the sector.
However, the plans have come under criticism from both political rivals and industry groups, with questions raised about the cost of the scheme, how it will be funded, and the impact on competition in the sector.
Labour estimates the deployment of full-fibre broadband will cost an additional £15 billion on top of the £5 billion already committed to such schemes. The cost of maintaining the country's broadband networks is also estimated at around £230 million a year, which would be raised through a new tax on internet giants.
However, the Conservatives argue that Labour has significantly underestimated the costs involved, and the actual total expenses - including renationalisation costs, fibre rollouts, maintenance and salaries - will be around £83 billion over ten years. BT has also suggested the true cost of the full-fibre rollout alone will be closer to £40 billion than £20 billion.
Chief executive of technology industry body TechUK Julian David also criticised the plans, saying they would be a "disaster" for the UK's telecoms sector.
"Renationalisation would immediately halt the investment being driven not just by BT but the growing number of new and innovative companies that compete with BT," he stated.