The Labour leader talked about universal high speed broadband recently but in a new speech today has set out some more detail, though full copies of what has been said do not appear online yet. Jeremy Corbyn MP is making it pretty clear that he wants universal broadband to be available to all no matter how urban or how rural and he sees this being delivered by FTTP and/or mobile coverage and is earmarking some £25 billion to achieve this.
The Universal Service Network will be financed by the National Investment Bank which will be created if Labour wins the 2020 General Election with the NIB aiming to invest many billions in a variety of infrastructure projects.
Precise details on timelines and how a universal network would be achieved are of course thin on the ground, the same with all political ambitions that start off as a dream and are then slowly fleshed out, but it is thought that a timeframe of ten years for completion may the sort of timescale involved.
The UK may currently only have around 2% FTTP coverage, but if this new network is truly universal there are questions around how it will be achieved, e.g. new universal provider, nationalisation of Openreach or another alternative. Of course those existing FTTP operators may not be keen on a state subsidised operator coming their way, and we very much doubt Virgin Media will be keen either.
For those who have followed the NBN in Australia this announcement almost mirrors similar ones made some years ago by the Labour Government then, but a change of party in charge saw a change in direction, particularly once the bills for the building work involved started to roll in.
Having a firm timeline to 100% FTTH/FTTP coverage would be brilliant to have in the UK, but with the next General Election just under four years away there is a risk that some councils may scale back their ambitions in terms of gap funding i.e. promise of a new universal network will make councils and possibly investors wary of spending their own cash when it might be over lapped by a new network. In the days of EU membership this overlap would be stopped by EU State Aid Rules but by 2020 Brexit and EU membership should be part of UK history.