Labour has promised to nationalize BT’s internet network if it comes to power, meaning that if the party wins the elections, the UK population will enjoy free internet.
Labour’s proposed overhaul of the telecoms infrastructure, an addition to its already broad nationalization plan, would be paid for by raising taxes on tech firms such as Alphabet’s Google, Amazon and Facebook and using its Green Transformation fund.
The announcement by Labour, which is currently lagging Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives in opinion polls ahead of the Dec. 12 election, sent BT’s shares down as much as 3.7%, wiping nearly half a billion pounds off its market value. The share was down 1.7% at 1410 GMT.
Labour plans to nationalize Openreach – the fixed-line network arm of the country’s biggest broadband and mobile phone provider – as well as parts of BT Technology, BT Enterprise and BT Consumer to create a “British Broadband” public service.
“A Labour government will make broadband free for everybody,” Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said in a speech. “This is core infrastructure for the 21st century. I think it’s too important to be left to the corporations.”
“We’ll tax the giant corporations fairly – the Facebooks and the Googles – to cover the running costs,” said Corbyn, adding the public had been forced to pay far too much for “rip-off broadband” and the party would transform the British economy.
BT, with roots in an 1846 telegraph company, was once one of Britain’s national champions and the flagship of Margaret Thatcher’s privatization policy when it was floated by her Conservative government in 1984.
Labour’s announcement brought into sharp relief the election stakes: Johnson who promises to deliver Brexit in January or Labour which says it wants to be the most radical socialist government in British history.
The relatively muted market reaction indicates investors do not expect Labour to win, analysts said. BT also retained the right to show UEFA Champions League soccer games, helping to support shares.
Johnson derided Corbyn’s plan, saying it would undermine the world’s fifth largest economy and cost taxpayers dearly. He has promised to roll out full-fiber broadband to all homes by 2025.