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A revolution in broadband?

The Labour Party have announced that a Labour government would take into public ownership the 'final mile' of broadband cable, currently controlled as a monopoly by BT Openreach and invest in the rollout of superfast connections for every home.

This bold move was greeted with the cry of "communism!" by Boris Johnson and the Tory media.

But what is happening in other countries?  Is Labour's proposal so off the rails? The answer is no.

The UK is not alone in having difficulty with the rollout of broadband connections to create what is now termed the Gigabyte society.

Germany's business community is concerned at the lack of progress in broadband connectivity.   Vodafone even called for the 'last mile' of cabling to be 'state-supported'.

Germany also has been slow to expand its fibre-optic network, and the business community warn it will lose competitiveness because slow internet speeds as it risks holding back advances in computer-based manufacturing.   Germany's Vodafone director said last year:

“It is enormously expensive to rip the road on your own, It would be better to do it like the Spaniards and Portuguese, for example. The state lays empty pipes, just as it builds highways - i.e. state investment in infrastructure."
And there is the key: the state invests in infrastructure.

A report prepared by CERRE (Center on Regulation in Europe) whose members are big names like ComCom, Orange and Vodafone, also called for EU rules on state aid to be relaxed to facilitate the provision.   

If the rollout requires state aid, then it would be right that there is sufficient accountability for that involvement, and particularly that all citizens should have the opportunity to benefit from that investment.  

One way for doing this is to have the network under some form of public ownership.  

The Victorians realised that major infrastructure needed for the public good required community and public input.  The market has failed to deliver on broadband, and the consumer has very little way of expressing needs. Markets work through supply and demand, yet there is little change in supply and no way a customer can be effective in their demand for better access.

Changing provider does nothing to the outmoded infrastructure.  It simply transfers the problem.

Superfast broadband requires a radical approach.  










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