Free Internet Is Proposed in Britain. Is It Even Possible?

LONDON — In an election where Britain’s exit from the European Union has loomed over the campaign, a debate about internet speeds would seem unlikely to enter the race.

But Britain’s Labour Party injected the topic into the contest last week with a surprise plan to provide high-speed fiber internet service to every household and business in the country by 2030. Free.

The proposal raised questions about how a free broadband service would work, and who would pay for it.

How would the service work?

The party’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said the government would take over parts of the country’s largest internet provider, Openreach, a subsidiary of the telecommunications giant BT. The plan would reverse decades of privatization and put the government in charge of an enormous national infrastructure project.

Labour said the plan would cost roughly 20 billion pounds, or about $26 billion, and be paid for as part of a new government spending package. A tax on Facebook, Google and other tech giants would be used to maintain the network. Labour said it would save customers an average of about £30 a month on internet service, or about $39.

The idea amounts to an attempt at creating a new British social service akin to the National Health Service, which provides free medical care to all British residents.

Is free broadband even possible?

No other country provides free government-run broadband service, said Matthew Howett, the founder and principal analyst at Assembly Research, a firm that studies telecommunications.

To catch up to other countries that have rolled out fiber more quickly,

Keep reading this article on The New York Times Business.

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