A Labour Party plan to provide free broadband for all UK households within a decade risks ‘slowing down’ rural connectivity improvements, the CLA has warned.
The group claimed the proposals, which would nationalise BT Openreach – the arm of the company that builds and maintains the cable network – would ‘collapse’ all private sector investment in internet infrastructure.
The alarm was sounded as £500m was wiped off BT’s market value in the wake of Labour’s announcement.
The plan, projected to cost about £20bn, was also attacked by telecoms industry bodies, who claimed other internet service providers such as Virgin Media or TalkTalk would be forced to close, leading to 181,000 job losses.
CLA president Mark Bridgeman said: “We welcome the political focus on broadband from all parties.
“This shows we are finally seeing some ambition to become a world-class, fully-connected digital nation, tackling the digital divide between rural and urban areas, with all the economic and social benefits that brings.
“Of course, everyone likes things for free. But it is not clear how nationalisation will speed up the delivery of full broadband for everyone in the country.
“Under these plans, investment will collapse straight after the election and it will not begin again until the Government is able to complete the nationalisation process.
“This could take many years and actually slow down progress, not speed it up.”
Other rural policies pre-briefed from the Labour Party manifesto, which was published on Thursday (November 21), include doubling the number of police officers tasked with tackling wildlife crime, from 88 to 170.
The officers will primarily deal with hare coursing, fox hunting, stag hunting and badger and raptor baiting, but will also work in partnership with regional organised crime units to monitor offences such as livestock rustling.
FG has approached the Labour Party for comment.