BBC Politics Live has already entered meltdown over Labour’s free WiFi policy

Jo Coburn and Rebecca Long Bailey

The Labour Party has announced a sweeping upgrade to Britain’s internet infrastructure, pledging fast, free broadband for all. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said:

I just say to the Conservatives and others… we can’t afford not to do it. We’re falling behind our global competitors… Take… South Korea for example. What South Korea did is exactly this. They set up a state company, and they rolled out their full fibre broadband over a ten-year programme… They’ve covered nearly 97% of their country. We now have about 10-12%. We’re falling behind.

But the right-wing media, including the BBC, didn’t react well:

Jo Coburn opened the segment with:

It’s certainly another costly promise in an already expensive election.

Others pointed out on social media that, by its own measure, the BBC itself is also ‘broadcast communism’:

But it looks like Times columnist Iain Martin has one-upped the BBC:

Meanwhile, BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg seemed to pull from nowhere that the plans could mean government-led internet censorship:

Yet it’s multinationals like Facebook carrying out internet censorship, not Corbyn’s Labour. Former White House cybersecurity director Nathaniel Gleicher oversaw the censorship of hundreds of Facebook pages in late 2018. An array of these pages criticised governments and ‘the establishment’.

The “plebs” don’t deserve free WiFi

Outside the BBC‘s politics sector, not everyone was upset. Richard Osman, co-presenter of Pointless, tweeted:

No profit = cheaper essential service

On the BBC, Coburn asked shadow energy and business minister Rebecca Long-Bailey:

Why through public ownership, why not tender it to the best providers in the UK and around the world?

Long-Bailey responded:

The government’s own research, the figures that we’ve replied upon from frontier economics today, they’ve stated that the cost of rolling out broadband right across the country would be about £20bn. Left to the market, however, they’ve estimated that the cost would be about £33.4bn

These figures allude to a deeper truth. Removing profit from a common essential like internet access can only be cheaper for people and businesses. A simple thought experiment demonstrates this. Can you imagine a situation where people won’t need internet in 2019? Of course not – you even need internet access to sign on for social security measures like Universal Credit. So if we don’t own common essentials like internet, water, or energy ourselves, we are left renting them from the private sector at a much higher cost.

In other words, the bottom line is the complete opposite of what the Conservatives allege. The truth is we cannot afford the status quo, where we rent our services, housing, and university courses from the corporations. Case in point: the UK’s richest 1,000 families have increased their wealth by over £500bn since the 2008 financial crash, while the majority of us face austerity cuts.

The right-wing freak out over the policy is quite something. Free internet is fundamental to a modern civil society. So, bring it on.

Featured image via BBC iplayer

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