Labour pledges universal broadband and nationwide fibre, will renationalise the farcical, terrible BT Openreach

I think we are at a stage where broadband is a public utility, certainly, but I’d be militantly against it unless the law explicitly mandates end-to-end encryption on state-owned infrastructure and makes interception, monitoring, and prioritizing both illegal and technically infeasible.

The thought of certain political parties, in particular, getting their grubby little hands on the sum total of all information flow in society horrifies me. Yes on providing and universalizing the solution, no on allowing state control of it.

Universalization at the price of control is not worth it. Even if the control is as incompetent as I suspect it will be, this just means that private communication is a privilege of the technically sophisticated. Not acceptable.

I’m not sure if state ownership makes interception easier. Governments can and do use legal means (laws, regulations, operating licences, etc.) to require privately owned telecommunications companies to co-operate with the police and security services. Companies won’t risk millions of dollars in investment and assets by refusing to co-operate and facing the loss of their licences to operate.

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In general, yes, but companies have refused to cooperate in the past. Even quite large, greedy ones. Apple famously refused to break iPhone security when told to do so.

Apple isn’t running a telecommunications network. The government can’t put it out of business by withdrawing its licence.

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When I lived in the UK BT had already been privatized, and my own local telco, Kingston Communications, was independent of BT and city-owned. It was terrible, but not worse than BT. Fast forward a few decades, KCOM is no longer owned by Hull Council but they have retained some spirit of public service in their corporate tradition and they have just made fibre available to 100% of their customers. The solution is obvious: don’t nationalize BT, just force them to become a subsidiary of KCOM.

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Isn’t that already the case?

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Yes.

I don’t like it.

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