back to article Labour: Free British broadband for country if we win general election

Labour will today pledge to give the good folk of Britain free broadband by 2030 by part-nationalising BT - if the political party gets elected. Under the move, Labour has said it will integrate the broadband-relevant parts of the London-listed company into a new public entity, British Broadband. That includes its broadband …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Everything will be FREE!!

    I live on the edge of a large conurbation in the South East. Our so-called FTTC broadband is currently 8Mbps down and 0.75Mbps up. Openreach said it would cost us £15000 to have a fibre laid to a new cabinet in the street (our current FTTC cabinet is inside the exchange which is over a mile away). They said our neighbours could clump together to pay for this. We would still need to subscribe to an ISP to delilver the service. In the end it's worked out cheaper/faster to use a 4G service with a router providing 30Mbps down/up.....still not massive but better. And we're not even in the countryside.

    1. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Everything will be FREE!!

      I stopped complaining to BT about their speeds a year ago. I simply switched to Virgin which has not got very good customer services but does provide a 350Mbps line in an area of London where BT could/would only provide a maximum 3Mbps. They continue to maintain that it is not worth it to them to fibre-enable that particular exchange (W14 Blythe) as the 4 adjoining/overlapping enabled exchanges cover most of the area ... except, Kensington Olympia and much of its surrounding area, including several large hotels.

      I really doubt they would even notice that they had been re-nationalised back into the "GPO", or whatever Labour want to call it. I would suggest that Labour also nationalises Vodafone, so that the GPO can learn how to build a particularly unpleasant customer "support" team.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Everything will be FREE!!

        Most people can’t just simply switch to anyone. There is no real competition. Most ISPs operate over OpenReach as well. Nationalising the underlying network makes sense. A national grid for the internet. Nationalising any over the top parts, I.e the ISPs does not.

        1. Wicked Witch

          Re: Everything will be FREE!!

          That depends if you're talking about a raw bit-pipe or a "full-service" ISP. If all the ISP is doing is providing a fat pipe, mainly to overseas peering points and local server farms, then there's no point to competing on whether a prettier bill is worth a price premium. If the market is efficient, then everyone will end up paying pretty much the same price as the network provider charges, especially if either advertising rules or network standards rule out competing on how much they're lying about contention ratios.If you can shop around and get a better deal, then either you're exceedingly lucky or the market is inefficient (electricity is a good example of that).

          If we're still talking about traditional ISPs with email, miscellaneous mirrors, and other services, then the national network provider should allow retailers to add features, but they should also allow customers to buy access directly at the same price.

    2. steelpillow Silver badge

      Re: Everything will be FREE!!

      Yep, 4G router works like a charm. Sod fibre, too many cooks.

      And sod Corbyn too, promise everything tomorrow but never, ever make a decision on anything today.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @steelpillow and ImAlrightJack

        BT used to be owned by everyone who paid taxes, then the torys gave it away to their friends who continued to raid the taxpayer for years and degraded the service whilst charging more for less.

        That everyone now pays more tax because the services they privatised everyone still had to use and none of the money returned to the tax payer as it did before they gave it way to the other ImAlrightJacks.

        Personally I would take back everything the Torys stole off me and the others who not be conned into believing it was anything other than national theft

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @steelpillow and ImAlrightJack

          "BT used to be owned by everyone who paid taxes, then the torys gave it away to their friends who continued to raid the taxpayer for years and degraded the service whilst charging more for less."

          It wasn't given away , it was sold and the money given to the treasury to use alongside taxation income. Whether they spent is wisely or not is another matter.

          Many things should remain public where competition makes no sense, eg trains, NHS, however telecoms isn't one of those. The more competition in the telecoms sector the better for everyone.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @steelpillow and ImAlrightJack

            It only makes sense for the providers, not the infrastructure. If fibre is layed to a house by 1 provider, there is very little insentive for another provider to do the same due to cost. So the competition you talk of did not exist.

            It is currently done with power and gas, do you think there would be more competition if each power and gas company has to install their own power lines and gas pipes?

            If the government were able to get fibre installed to every home, guaranteed, that would provide the best competition available. But it would need to be point to point, none of this gpon shite. With access to cabinets if wanted by each company so that they can provide the tech they want to deliver. Along with basic provioning (1gb ports, dwdm for back haul expansion) so that providers can use what the gov put in instead and they just provide peering.

            But of course its going to cost. And well will they be able to do it.

            1. SERIOUS CALLERS ONLY

              Re: @steelpillow and ImAlrightJack

              So hang on a second, this GPON shite you mentioned - not heard of this before but from what i've just read it's actually a fibre connection that is spliced and shared between users.

              How many times have we heard of "fibre broadband" not acutally ended up being actual point to point fibre. are we in for the same thing yet again with this next roll out? surely this should be point to point fibre?

              1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

                Re: @steelpillow and ImAlrightJack

                this GPON shite you mentioned - not heard of this before but from what i've just read it's actually a fibre connection that is spliced and shared between users.

                That's the standard way to provide fibre broadband, everywhere. Point to point would be impractical in terms of cost and cable size. Even copper broadband and phone is only p2p as far as the exchange, after that it's all multiplexed together in one cable or fibre.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: @steelpillow and ImAlrightJack

                  It's not the standard way to provide everywhere. It's the cheaper single provider way. Also there is a big difference between a multiplexed up link, time division multiplexed up link and a switched up link. A couple of them have far more bandwidth available.

                  Point to point fttp can go back to the cabinet, be switches there, with enough bandwidth back to the exchange. Yes it means it's more expensive, requiring large cabinets, but means far more bandwidth is available. You are not sharing 2gb/s with 64 homes, with only 35mbit/s down and 16mbit/s up guaranteed (backhaul dependent), as you get with GPON.

                  Depending upon the density of the population in the area also means everything may just go back to the exchange/POP. Example of this is rural areas and B4RN. 1Gbit/s P2P, with 2 x 40Gbit/s uplinks per POP, which can be easily increased with DWDM if needed.

                  High fibre count cable sizes are not like copper, 1024 fibre trunk direct burial in around 20mm in diameter. With ducting fibre being thinner. The fibre count doesn't increase size much, its the sleaving and protection that takes up the space, so a slight increase in dimension increases the space available for the actual fibre dramatically.

                  But larger fibre counts do present problems with fix times when damaged.

            2. Tom Paine

              Re: @steelpillow and ImAlrightJack

              It only makes sense for the providers, not the infrastructure. [Continues at some length]

              Yes. That is why OpenReach exists, with their regulatory requirement to provide non-discriminatory access to all the consumer service providers.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: @steelpillow and ImAlrightJack

                And why most of the country doesn't have fibre to the home.

              2. MrReynolds2U Bronze badge

                Re: @steelpillow and ImAlrightJack

                "non-discriminatory access" ... just, lol

                Or maybe they're better now but I can remember large numbers of "lost" jobs, extra planning and costs and scheduling problems when work was requested by non-BT subsidiaries.

          2. Peter2 Silver badge

            Re: @steelpillow and ImAlrightJack

            BT used to be owned by everyone who paid taxes, then the torys gave it away to their friends who continued to raid the taxpayer for years and degraded the service

            Degraded the service? No. Just. no. It used to be expensive, and poor in terms of quality. It's improved massively under privatisation.

            Many things should remain public where competition makes no sense, eg trains

            You do realise that the entire railway network in the UK was built by private companies in the 19th century? Competition always makes sense if you want a decent service; competition between companies on service and quality pushed passenger numbers to 1.5 billion journeys a year just before WW1.

            When nationalised, traffic dropped down to ~750 million a year when the railways were in public ownership apparently because nobody wanted to use crowded and filthy trains, and then they closed down parts of the rail network that they didn't think were worthwhile to keep open. Privitsation bought new rolling stock and other improvements, and passenger numbers are now at 1.7 billion journeys a year; bigger than the Victorian network usage.

            I don't use the trains, so would be quite happy to see them privitised again; but i'm fairly sure that this wouldn't go any better than last time.

            1. Jim84

              Re: @steelpillow and ImAlrightJack

              What killed private railways as profitable enterprises was the advent of the diesel truck and better roads.

              In the early days the government had to force railways to take paying customers as they wanted to focus on freight. The government nationalized the railways to keep some form of commuter service going.

              Incidentally it wasn't railways that killed canals. Canals were used alongside railways up until the diesel truck. Railways have stuck around because they are the only (partial) solution to moving loads of people around in congested cities.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                @JIm84

                Hey Jim - the railways were nationalized in 1948; I don't htink diesel trucks were common then. Rather, the railways were utterly worn out after WW2 and needed massive replacement of equipment.

                What you might be thinking of is the late 50s loss of traffic that made many lines uneconomic to operate.

                1. yakitoo

                  Re: @JIm84

                  "the railways were utterly worn out after WW2 and needed massive replacement of equipment."

                  Which the the owners were unwilling or unable to do, so the public purse picked up the bill.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: @JIm84

                    No it didn't. The nationalisation was to avoid compensating the owners for war damage. After nationalisation the investment programme planned by the big four was largely cancelled as national resources were ploughed into other areas like housing. This led to the railway being seen as a "working museum". Some of these schemes were picked up again in the 1955 Modernisation Plan, a full ten years after the war and after a change of government.

                2. Tom Paine

                  Re: @JIm84

                  What you might be thinking of is the late 50s loss of traffic that made many lines uneconomic to operate.

                  Fun little sidebar -- it seems to have passed largely unnoticed, but Johnson has casually promised to reinstate all the lines closed by the Beeching cuts.

                  https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/11/15/conservatives-reopen-railway-lines-closed-1960s-beeching-cuts/

                  Somewhat confusingly, he thinks this will cost £500m ...

                  1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

                    Re: @JIm84

                    Johnson has casually promised to reinstate all the lines closed by the Beeching cuts.

                    I haven't seen any suggestion that he said all of them, just the ones that are viable.

                    Given that Beeching's report was based on outdated figures for trains hauled by steam locomotives, without considering diesel traction, and was implemented by a transport minister with known connections to the companies building the new motorways, the cuts are generally considered to have been excessive. Restoring some more lines is long overdue.

          3. Rol Silver badge

            Re: @steelpillow and ImAlrightJack

            "And here's your £500 from the sale of your car"

            "I didn't want to sell it!"

            "Well, I'm sorry. You could always buy another one"

            "Yes. I see my old car is being advertised at £2,000 just one day later"

            "Yeah. The markets are a little fickle"

            "No you purposefully sold it for a quarter of its worth to your mate"

        2. HarryBl

          Re: @steelpillow and ImAlrightJack

          Before the GPO was privatised you had a choice of two types of telephone - a big black Bakelite one or a flipfone. It was hard wired and couldn't be moved. BT, regardless of their dire customer service, was a breath of fresh air.

          1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

            Re: @steelpillow and ImAlrightJack

            Not only that, but when we wanted a phone installed (circa 1968) we had to wait 3 months until they deigned to let us have one.

            1. Rol Silver badge

              Re: @steelpillow and ImAlrightJack

              Based solely on my experiences in the 80's I would highly recommend you buy a couple of extra bags of coal for winter. Just in case the miners go on strike again.

              1. CountCadaver

                Re: @steelpillow and ImAlrightJack

                My parents had a telephone line installed when they moved into their first house in 1980, until privatisation, it was a party line shared with several other neighbours, who could and did listen in on everyone's calls. You know the idea that the USA binned in the early 1960s....

            2. Allan 1

              Re: @steelpillow and ImAlrightJack

              Not only that, my parents actually had to attend a face to face interview with the GPO in what is now known as DIAL House in Manchester, and actually JUSTIFY to a GPO worker, why they needed a telephone.

            3. SImon Hobson Silver badge

              Re: @steelpillow and ImAlrightJack

              we had to wait 3 months

              Wow, only 3 months !

              The problem is that anyone who can remember what it was really like pre-BT is, like those who can't remember the old BR dustbins, getting on a bit - late fifties at least.

              Too many people see the past through rose tinted spectacles - a bit like how our town has a Dickensian festival and people dress up in Victorian era costumes. I see a rather different proportion of "well off and well dressed" to "has b***er all and works all hours to keep a hovel roof over the family" than there would have been, and those that do decide to dress up as the lowly ones seem to be rather fitter, healthier, and happier than most of them would have been. But I digress ...

              I can (just) remember to old BR, and I can (just) remember the old GPO. I would not want to return to either of those. I notice that when there's some railway news (typically price hikes for the commuters), the ones in the vox-pop interviews wanting to renationalise the railways are all far too young to realise just what they are asking for. Cue the old saying, be careful what you ask for, you may get it !

              1. Claverhouse Silver badge

                Re: @steelpillow and ImAlrightJack

                Too many people see the past through rose tinted spectacles - a bit like how our town has a Dickensian festival and people dress up in Victorian era costumes. I see a rather different proportion of "well off and well dressed" to "has b***er all and works all hours to keep a hovel roof over the family" than there would have been, and those that do decide to dress up as the lowly ones seem to be rather fitter, healthier, and happier than most of them would have been. But I digress ...

                Wasn't that the heyday of Classical Liberal/Whig laissez-faire capitalism pre-socialism ?

                Not like the wealth-owners spontaneously decided to improve the working-class lot. As late as the 1930s they were still trying their idee-fixe of forcing coal miners to take less wages.

              2. Esme

                Re: @steelpillow and ImAlrightJack

                @Simon Hobson I disagree somewhat, but my take on things may be slightly different to most. I'm old enough to (just) remember travelling on a mainline steam train and a time when having a phone in your home instead of using a phonebox was a bit posh, and maybe every other family had a car, singular, and motorways? what motorways?!

                With regard to trains - and bearing in mind that I cannot drive, so I use public transport (and for preference trains) a lot - it never made any sense to me as a user for the trains and associated infrastructure to be privatised due to the blame game whenever anything goes amiss.

                Not only that but fatuous tannoy announcements as trains come into stations of the ilk "thank you for using (company name) for your journey" irritate - they;re just noise pollution, because if there's one thing train users do NOT have any realistic choice of it's which train company to use on the journey they want to make. I've also experienced the situation , where there were delays of even station tsaff not knowing what the hell was going on, because the company owning the station wasnt kept informed by the company running the delayed train. And privatisation doesn't solve all ills- one only has to look at the situation south and east of Reading to see that.

                In general, I contend it's utter bloody madness to have a non-nationalised rail network - it would have been better, IMHO, to have worked on implementing better systems within the nationalised train setup than selling it off. If privatised companies are allowed to err then improve, why not nationalised ones? Seems like double standards to me.

                With regard to phones, I utterly LOATHE the current setup not because it's privatised, but because of how shit it is in delivering the service I want compared to how the PO service used to be. (It's a phone. I want to be able to speak to people, that;s it. Oh, text? OK, that's neat and useful, I'll have that too, please. I am NOT interested in the internet on a phone, that is crazy talk! If you can get it on my pocket computer, I'm game to give it a go, though). Caveat - technology has changed dramatically since back then, so we're right on the verge of comparing apples with oranges, in that mobile phones didnt exist back then. If they had, would the PO have done any better than the current excrutiating mess? Hmm.. tricky. My guess is that the PO might well have experimented with the types of service phones might provide more slowly than private companies have, and that might not have been a bad thing.

                I'm also aware that I have definitely hit the age of (genuine) old cantankerous biddyness (as against that which I have claimed in years gone by for comic effect)* and so at least some of the negativity I feel toward the current situation with regard to phones should be taken with a pinch of salt. But I really do hate the direction mobile phones have gone in, from highly useful simple devices with decent battery life to vastly overcomplicated pieces of kit that are shit as phones and shit as computers, that are actually controlled by phone companies who seem to think that throwing everything including the kitchen sink into the kit they rent to you is a good idea and doesnt impact usability one bit (and I'll only mention my loathing of touch screen keyboards this once, promise).

                Oh - and my liking for the basics of life being nationalised has more to do with my desire for simplicity in the fundamentals of life, not my political leanings. If there's a problem with my electricity bill, I;d rather just contact the electricity Board (as was) than be shoved from meter company to transmission company to "power supply company" trying to get to the bottom of the problem. Privatising some things is actually LESS efficient for the customer - and causes more stress. I don;t give a monkeys if other stuff is privatised. Fine by me.

                Anyway in summary - I think renationalising the railways actually would be a sensible thing to do. Renationalising the phone service though - I like the idea (I'm in favour of nationalised basic service like power water transport and comms generally), but honestly, I think the insanity with mobile phones has gone so far that that mess isnt ever likely to be sensibly fixed anytime soon, whether privatised or not. So why not let private companies take the blame for the mess they've created rather than renationalise it, with the inevitable huge problems involved in doing so, and then have lots of naysayers blaming the mess on it being nationalised rather than blaming the private companies that caused the mess of overpriced user-hostility that is the modern phone landscape?

                Right, I've said me piece, settling down in my recliner with a throw over my lap nice cuppa and blissfully going back to my video games on my ethernet wired desktop PC. WiFi? Bah, humbug! :-}*

                *You think I'm kidding? I'm not! (chuckle)**

                ** But I'm still capable of poking fun at my own expense!

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @steelpillow and ImAlrightJack

            Before the GPO was privatised, petrol was cheap, the music charts were worth listening too, and I didn't have grey hair.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @steelpillow and ImAlrightJack

              Good to see some consistency in the boring stakes though. So that's a win for you.

          3. Tom Paine

            Re: @steelpillow and ImAlrightJack

            Eh? From 1959 until privatisation in the 80s, the standard phone was the Type 706 (and variants) which was plastic -- ABS I think -- not bakelite. "Trimphones" didn't turn up til the late 70s as I recall.

            https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/GPO_telephones

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @steelpillow and ImAlrightJack

            >Before the GPO was privatised you had a choice of two types of telephone - a big black Bakelite one or a flipfone.

            Actually there were dozens, a choice of colours and none were Bakelite. I think you might be confused by the fact there were standard designs and differences were subtle - many manufacturers produced them. Still have several of ours all working beautifully - have a 746 connected in the hall as the bells can be heard from the bottom of the garden.

            There's a reasonably exhaustive collection here:

            http://www.telephonesuk.co.uk/phones_1960-80.htm

          5. MrReynolds2U Bronze badge

            Re: @steelpillow and ImAlrightJack

            That's not even true, at all

        3. steelpillow Silver badge

          Re: @steelpillow and ImAlrightJack

          @AC: I don't give a flying fsck who owns a monopoly, all monopolies are shite. Broadband is the perfect example: for most of us fibre is effectively a monopoly and it's shite, while 4G is competitive and it just works.

          All of which has nothing whatever to do with the fact that Corbyn is the dumbest Labour leader I ever had the displeasure to listen to.

          1. James O'Shea

            Re: @steelpillow and ImAlrightJack

            He's got some way to go before he can beat Michael Foote or (shudder) Neil Kinnock. Exactly how in God's name Kinnock managed to lose in 1992 is quite beyond me.

            1. werdsmith Silver badge

              Re: @steelpillow and ImAlrightJack

              Kinnock fell over in the sea whilst playacting for cameras in a mocked up beach walk.

              It was game over at that point.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: @steelpillow and ImAlrightJack

                I always thought Neil Kinnock's biggest gaffe was holding the victory party just before the election. All ways bound to go down well with the voters that one.

              2. AndrueC Silver badge
                Alert

                Re: @steelpillow and ImAlrightJack

                I always thought it was that party conference when he appeared so happy and suddenly people realised how close he was to being elected.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @steelpillow and ImAlrightJack

          "BT used to be owned by everyone who paid taxes, then the torys gave it away to their friends who continued to raid the taxpayer for years and degraded the service whilst charging more for less."

          You clearly never used their services back then. The govt. raided the GPO coffers and never invested back in the infrastructure, that's why it took months to get connected, cost a fortune and was using ancient kit. Was only once privatised that things moved on. That's not to say they are perfect, they aren't, but those are some industrial strength rose-tinted specs you've got on.

    3. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: Everything will be FREE!!

      A mate of mine (and a lot of other smart people) reckon that Labour have got their sums seriously wrong on this. What made me laugh was somebody on the tube was talking on the way home and said they were a dyed in the wool Labour supporter. Until this pledge was announced that is. He said as somebody who worked in the city he could see that it wasn't going to work. He said they'd obviously just come up with a policy to try and match the Conservatives. It's just they had to go one better and made it dafter as a result. He said it didn't matter what they promised they weren't going to get in. They knew this and were just saying any old sh!t.

      1. Persona Silver badge

        Re: Everything will be FREE!!

        It's a pretty safe promise. Fast and free broadband for everyone by 2030.

        2030 isn't in the lifetime of the Parliament we are about to elect, or even the one after that, so honouring it is only a problem if they win the next three general elections. And if they do still don't expect the "free" to start till after the "everyone" has been done as that would be quite unfair.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Everything will be FREE!!

      I sympathize. I went through a similar process although I am in the country whilst at the same time being 35 minutes from London Marylebone station. Having a "business" (contractor) I went for a business grade service. They (Vaioni) ate the first 10k of install costs so it cost me about 5k for Openreach to run about 3.5k of fibre underground with approx 400pm for a 100mbps symmetric service. It's still pricey and I work from a lot and love pr0n. Sometimes at the same time lol.

      Smut jokes aside, the symmetric nature of the service makes things like backup of multi camera HD CCTV footage viable and proper offsite cloud backups (once the initial seeding was done)

    5. Persona Silver badge

      Re: Everything will be FREE!!

      Everything will be free and you will get the customer service you are paying for.

      "Thank you for using BT. We know you haven't a choice"

    6. Tomato42

      Re: Everything will be FREE!!

      > FTTC cabinet is inside the exchange which is over a mile away

      you keep using that word, I don't think it means what you think it means

      (this is in relation to the clueless damned working the helldesk, not the AC)

  2. Korev Silver badge

    The almost cut throat competition between broadband rivals has meant faster speeds, improved coverage and lower prices for consumers up and down the country.

    That's bollocks, for most of the country speeds are determined by whatever technology BT decides to give them. The competition pretty much decides who send you bills and who you shout at when it doesn't work.

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      There seems to be cut throat competition to provide the lowest level of service support possible to joe public.

      1. SkippyBing

        Because it turns out people will happily accept poor service in exchange for lower bills. Hence Ryan Air and Talk Talk still being in business. But if that's a choice people want to make then let them, it's not as if there aren't better choices available, e.g. any other airline, Andrews and Arnold etc.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          And some people aren't snobs, and will pay for the cheapest service that works well.

          You can continue buying your "designer labels", but don't act like your bling makes you better than anyone else.

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