McDonnell says Labour is introducing this policy partly because broadband connectivity is an issue that people kept raising at pubic meetings. And they made the point that children could not do their homework without broadband access.
And so this is measure that will tackle inequality, he says.
And that’s it. The Q&A is over.
Q: Will you be able to get access to land to lay these cables?
Corbyn says there will be some disruption as new cables are laid. But this is necessary, he says.
Q: Do you rule out a non-aggression pact with the Liberal Democrats in the election? Jo Swinson knows that having a Labour government is the only way to stop Brexit.
Corbyn says he is fighting the election on a pledge to end austerity, ending the problems introduced by the coalition government that included the Lib Dems.
He says Labour would introduce an early budget.
If other parties make ending austerity a point of negotiation, he would refuse.
He says he is not going into coalition with any of the pro-austerity parties. In fact, he is not planning to go into coalition with anyone. He is planning a majority.
Q: When would poorer communities see the benefits from this?
Corbyn says remote rural areas, that do not get any broadband at the moment, will get this early on.
People who want to expand small businesses in rural areas cannot do so without proper broadband.
Q: Do you plan to stop people watching porn on the government’s broadband service?
Rebecca Long-Bailey says there will be a charter of internet rights.
(She does not address the point about pornography.)
Q: Other companies that provide broadband also provide things like landlines. How would you separate out those? And would broadband workers from all other companies get to keep their jobs?
Long-Bailey says Labour does not want to stop other companies providing enhanced services. Workers who transfer will do so under TUPE. That means their rights will be protected.
Q: Can you do this under EU laws? If not, is it a tacit admission that you want to leave?
McDonnell says Labour has had legal advice saying this is compatible with EU law.
Jeremy Corbyn and his colleagues are now taking questions.
Q: Isn’t the real problem with BT the fact that it has little competition. How would replacing it with a state monopoly make a difference?
Corbyn says he is proposing a public service, like any other public service.
He says his plan will improve the livelihoods of many people.
Every person in the room uses a computer every day, he says. They need this kind of access.
On public ownership, he says BT used to be in the public sector.
Q: Can you really afford this? BT say your plans will cost twice as much as you claim. And won’t ultimately taxpayers have to pay more?
McDonnell says the £20bn figure that Labour is using is a figure from the government’s own review.
Since privatisation, £54bn has been paid out in share dividends. That is twice as much as full-fibre rollout would have cost.
He says pension funds want the prospect of a steady income from something that is secure. This plan will offer that.
Q: Can you deliver this without a majority Labour government?
Corbyn says that issue does not arise because there is going to be a majority Labour government.
McDonnell urges people to see Ken Loach’s new film, Sorry We Missed You. It is shocking, he says. But it shows what is happening in the gig economy.
He says the plan being announced today is huge. But it is one that will transform lives.
McDonnell says for years people have said that taking on the multinationals is too difficult. But they accept that now is the time for it to happen.
McDonnell says this is an example of a “shovel-ready project” that Labour would initiate immediately.
McDonnell says this is not a return to the 1970s. This is public ownership for the future, he says.
And the government will publish a charter of digital rights.
McDonnell claims the Tories do not understand the problems facing the country, particularly the threat posed by the climate emergency.
He says, when he is chancellor, he will not tolerate people dying from being homeless.
He says it is important now for all infrastructure to be green.
And, turning to broadband, he says that in South Korea state investment has led to 98% of the population being covered by full-fibre broadband.
He says the UK has nothing like that scale of ambition.
Now that is changing. Mark it in your diary, he says. It is a historic moment.
British Broadband will be a new public service for the 21st century.
It will have an infrastructure and a service arm, he says.
And he says Labour will begin with the areas with the worst broadband.
John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, is speaking now.
He says, whatever the Conservatives throw at them, Labour will continue to be relentlessly positive in the campaign.
Labour is costing every spending announcement, he says. But he says the Tory campaign is based on scaremongering.
Rebecca Long-Bailey, the shadow business secretary, is speaking now. She says there is clear evidence that rolling out full-fibre broadband will boost the economy. She says one CBI survey said a 10% increase in its reach could increase GDP by 1%.
More people would be able to work at home under this plan, she says. And that would be good for the environment.
It would also reduce the number of people shut out of the workforce.
Corbyn says Labour has a track record of delivering tranformative change.
Only Labour can deliver this project, he says.
This will be at the heart of Labour’s plans to tranform our society, he says.
Corbyn says the initial upgrade will be funded by Labour’s green transformation fund.
And, when it comes to running costs, Labour will close down the tax loopholes exploited by the giant multinationals.
They think they can get away with not paying their share. Well, I’ve got news for them; not any more.
Corbyn says Boris Johnson promised during the Tory leadership contest to make full-fibre broadband available for everyone. But people would have to pay for it.
And now we have seen the government’s plans. They involve copper cables that are already out of date, he says.
Corbyn says there will be guaranteed jobs for people currently working in the broadband industry.
Corbyn says full-fibre network will be rolled out first in areas with worst broadband
Corbyn says the full-fibre broadband that Labour will deliver is the gold standard. It is the fastest and most secure. It will deliver “lightning fast” download times, he says.
The plans will save the average household £30 a month on bills.
Only eight to 10% of the UK has access to full-fibre broadband. In South Korea, it is 98%, he says. He says this is essential infrastructure.
The best way for this to be provided is for the public to take control of it. Labour will create a new enterprise, British Broadband, overseeing a publicly owned network, delivering full-fibre broadband within 10 years.
This will show Labour using public investment to transform the economy. This plan will also have national security implications, he says.
The current companies have had little incentive to roll out full-fibre broadband to remote and rural areas. Labour would prioritise those areas. And then it would roll it out in towns. Finally it would complete the roll-out in urban centres.
Corbyn says Labour manifesto will ‘knock your socks off’
Jeremy Corbyn says at the start of the campaign he promised to put forward the most exciting plan ever seen. The party has not even published its manifesto, he says. When it comes next week, “it is going to knock your socks off”.
He says he does not want to lead a government that allows people to think nothing ever changes.
Today he is going to give a sneak preview.
A Labour government will make broadband free for everybody. And not just any broadband, but the very fastest, full-fibre broadband, to every home in the country.
He says, instead of billing customers, he will tax the internet giants such as Facebook and Google “fairly” to cover the running costs.
Cat Smith, Labour’s candidate for Lancaster and Fleetwood, is opening the Corbyn event.