Jeremy Corbyn’s plans to roll out free broadband for all have been making the rounds on social media today as the government grapples with their stay-at-home learning dilemma.
It means hundreds of thousands of pupils will now be required to learn remotely without the infrastructure required to do so in many cases, particularly for those in low-income households.
Former prime minister Tony Blair and three ex-education secretaries have written to the Prime Minister calling on him to act regarding shortages of remote learning equipment and accessibility.
The letter was co-ordinated by Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh, who said Ofcom estimates that between 1.14 million and 1.78 million children in the UK (9 per cent) do not have home access to a laptop, desktop or tablet, and that more than 880,000 children live in a household with only a mobile internet connection.
Data from the Office for National Statistics says only 51 per cent of households earning between £6,000 and £10,000 have internet access, the MP said.
Ms McDonagh said: “Children on the wrong side of the digital divide have neither the data nor the devices to log in from home when their schools close.
“In a country with free state education, no child’s education should be dependent on their internet connection.”
The comments echo that of former Labour leader Corbyn in 2019 after he included free broadband in the party’s ambitious manifesto.
At the time, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the idea was about basic social fairness, adding:
“It’s about large numbers of children being able to do their homework properly, and have the speed of connectivity.”
Boris Johnson slammed “Crackpot’ Corbyn’s broadband communism” plans, saying the scheme would cost taxpayers £100 billion.
Labour said their nationalised "Free Broadband" plan was "about children being able to do their homework properly" , aiding "home working" and speeding up the economy. Johnson called it "Crazed", the BBC called it "Communism", Lisa Nandy & Jess Phillips said it should be dropped. pic.twitter.com/T990uoiWZZ— Solomon Hughes (@SolHughesWriter) January 5, 2021