Full text of Rebecca Long Bailey’s speech on Labour’s British Broadband announcement
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Rebecca Long Bailey, Labour’s Shadow Secretary for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Outlining Labour’s British Broadband plans in a speech at the University of Lancaster today, said:
It is a pleasure to follow my friend Jeremy Corbyn, who in only a few weeks’ time now will be walking into Number 10, ready to deliver the transformational change this country so desperately needs.
And what better an example of the way Labour will transform the fabric of society for the betterment of the many than this announcement today.
Free broadband for all, at the fastest possible speed.
As Jeremy has outlined, the next Labour government will deliver free full-fibre broadband to all individuals and businesses by 2030. We will roll out the remaining 90% of the full-fibre network across the country and acquire the necessary access rights to those parts already in place.
This network will be publicly owned and coordinated through a new public provider, British Broadband, formed by bringing relevant parts of BT into public ownership. In this way, Labour will transform the UK’s digital infrastructure providing fast, secure, reliable internet connections for everyone.
As Shadow Business Secretary, I know all too well the importance of strong digital infrastructure for businesses and industry across the UK.
The Federation of Small Businesses highlight that 94 per cent of small business owners rate a reliable broadband connection as critical to the success of their business and the CBI says that over 90 percent of businesses believe that digital technologies are a crucial driver of increased productivity. Yet despite this, the UK is lagging behind the rest of the world on technology diffusion. One example is the level of automation. The UK currently has 71 installed robots per 10,000 manufacturing sector employees, below the world average and far behind other leading economies like Germany and France.
If we are to be at forefront of the fourth industrial revolution and a global economic player, we must speed up the adoption of technologies across our economy. But this can only be done if the best possible digital infrastructure is in place.
Research by the Centre for Economics and Business Research says that a full fibre broadband network could boost productivity by £59 billion by 2025 and the CBI have highlighted research that in general a 10% increase in broadband connections could result in 1% GDP increase per year. The plans set out today will ensure we realise these economic gains.
All businesses will have free full fibre broadband, lowering costs, facilitating the latest developments in technology and software, and supporting 5G technology. For those business people operating in rural communities, or people who want to start out companies from their homes but aren’t in town or city, this will provide the infrastructure they so need.
Reports have estimated that a million more people in the UK could work from home with a full-fibre network. Imagine if all those currently shut out of the labour market, such as those with childcare or caring responsibilities, those unfairly disadvantaged due to disability or older people, could participate fully through free, fast internet access from wherever they are.
And when more people are able to work from home it has clear environmental benefits too. If one million people do so, that would mean 300 million fewer commuting trips, three billion kilometres fewer travelled by car, and 360,000 tonnes fewer carbon dioxide emissions.
Now, if substantial economic, employment and environmental benefits were not enough…the roll out of free full fibre broadband can improve everybody’s quality of life. From families all being able to stream what they want at the same time, to children being able to take part in interactive homework.
From access to online education and services, through to older people being able to communicate with family and friends from the comfort of home. Every single person across the UK should have a right to these services, which have become a fundamental part of modern day life the world over.
Many of us have experienced a digital revolution over the last few years but so many have not seen these rewards. To not have access is to be excluded and Labour does not want anyone in our society to be left behind. That is why we are setting out these plans today.
Connecting every corner of the UK, and everything in between, with fast, reliable and secure broadband. Ensuring business and industry have the infrastructure they need to thrive and keep pace with our international competitors, wherever they are in the country. Eradicating digital exclusion and bringing people unfairly shut out into the workforce. And improving the richness of every person’s life by bringing the world to their fingertips, with a new universal basic service.
 See Centre for Economics and Business Research, Full fibre broadband: A platform for growth, October 2019, at p. 45.