One of the allegedly glaringly popular promises in the last Labour manifesto was the promise of free broadband. I wrote about it a couple of times and decided that though it was desirable, the failure to socialise it both within the movement and society as a whole allowed the promise to be undermined by questions of cost. I concluded the article above by asking “why not free water?”. One of the answers to that is that much government business, which it requires those most likely to not have the internet requires its use, on the one hand, recording business activity and on the other claiming benefits and maybe equally importantly writing to one’s MP or Council. The idea came from two sources, one of them the London CWU who issued a pamphlet, calling for broader public ownership of the telco and postal services on the grounds that private/market ownership was wasteful of wealth and resources, has delayed the adoption of superfast broadband, caused an investment famine and led to a pursuit of short term fashion & profit rather than investing in infrastructure for long term aggregate growth. The Executive Summary is reproduced below/overleaf. …

Telecommunications, the case for public ownership

  • The telecommunications industry is a natural monopoly. The current
    regulatory model of liberalisation and competition is wasteful and
  • The regulation of telecoms firms since privatisation has led to an
    investment ‘famine’ and the occasional ‘feast’ that severely limits the
    development of telecoms infrastructure for the benefit of all customers.
  • The rigged competitive model that has been the basis for regulation in
    the sector since privatisation is in fact a façade behind which mega profits
    are made by the major firms dividing up the market between them whilst
    customers and workers lose out.
  • Since privatisation in 1984 union membership density in telecoms has
    declined, and so has the job security, terms and conditions and access to
    training of workers in the industry. These trends are detrimental to an
    efficient telecoms service.
  • Rational planning, organisation and democratic control of the postal
    and telecoms industries under public ownership can facilitate effective
    investment in universal access to superfast broadband and promote social
  • Public ownership would allow the criteria for policy decisions on telecoms
    development to be the public good, rather than by the dictates of a market
    system based on short term profits whether from transient ‘content’
    fashions or ‘quick fix’ technological solutions.
  • Public ownership of telecoms can provide environmental improvements,
    stimulate industrial growth and increase investment in wider economic
    regeneration and growth in the UK along egalitarian lines – in the interests
    of the many and not the private gain of the few.
  • If the CWU, along with other affiliated unions, campaigned for public
    ownership of telecommunications and post to become Labour Party policy
    and be included as a commitment in the manifesto for the next election it
    would be a vote winner.
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