Reply to post: There's no such thing as 'free'

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

martinusher Silver badge

There's no such thing as 'free'

Back in the good old days a supply of water was regarded as a right, not a commodity, so water was supplied to everyone regardless (and it wasn't metered). It was paid for by a 'water rate', though -- water wasn't free, it was just regarded as important for a civilized society. Now its a commodity, bought and sold, raw material for the financial engineers. The companies that bought the water systems off the public made a killing because the infrastructure was already in place, all they had to do was figure out how to dice and slice and run a decent PR department to explain why a couple of weeks without rain resulted in a drought.

Data is a commodity like water and like water its becoming essential to the proper functioning of society. Left to the modern free market its build out will be slow and patchy since the market is only interested in RoI, not how it gets the return. So you need public investment to build out the system. The trick will be to figure out how to make that investment -- and reap the benefits -- without the financiers swooping in at a later date and stealing it**. Even if this is prevented there will still be significant cost involved so the broadband won't be 'free', it will just be paid for using a different model to the one used by the City.

Its all a bit of a pipe dream, anyway -- the government probably doesn't have access to the expertise needed to specify how to build out a universal data service (the mere fact that politicians use the term 'broadband' mean they're already well behind the curve). But its a nice to think that someone is thinking of you, even if its just for the election.

(**For an explanation of how this works try Terry Pratchett's "Going Postal". Unfortunately unlike the Discworld the good guys usually don't win in our one.)

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