Labour has promised free full-fibre broadband for every home and business by part-nationalising BT.
In a speech due to be delivered in Lancaster on Friday, Jeremy Corbyn will outline his proposals to create a new British broadband public service, saying they will “bring communities together in an inclusive and connected society”.
The scheme would be a radical shift in provision of broadband services, which are currently provided by companies at a cost per household of about £30 a month.
It builds on Labour’s existing plans to nationalise the energy utilities, water companies, postal services and railways as part of its plan for a transformation of the public sector.
Party strategists are hoping that such an eye-catching consumer offer to voters will help narrow the poll gap with the Tories, who are trying to keep the election focused on Brexit and immigration.
Labour said the policy, estimated to cost around £20bn, would be partly paid for by high taxes on internet companies such as Amazon, Facebook and Google.
“The internet has become such a central part of our lives,” Corbyn will say. “It opens up opportunities for work, creativity, entertainment and friendship. What was once a luxury is now an essential utility.
“That’s why full-fibre broadband must be a public service, bringing communities together, with equal access, in an inclusive and connected society.
“It’s time to make the very fastest full-fibre broadband free to everybody, in every home in every corner of our country. Making it free and available to all will open up opportunities for everybody, at the cutting edge of social and economic change.”
The Conservatives criticised the policy, saying it was a “fantasy plan to effectively nationalise broadband [that] would cost hardworking taxpayers tens of billions”.
Nicky Morgan, the outgoing culture secretary, said: “Corbyn is clearly so desperate to distract from his party’s divisions on Brexit and immigration that he will promise anything, regardless of the cost to taxpayers and whether it can actually be delivered. What reckless idea will be next?”
But Labour said its plan was fully costed, would involve a massive upgrade in the UK’s telecommunications network and would put an end to patchy and slow coverage.
It said the rollout would begin with communities that have the worst broadband access, including rural and remote communities and some inner city areas, followed by towns and smaller centres, and then by areas that are currently well-served.
John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, said: “This is public ownership for the future – a plan that will challenge rip-off ‘out-of-contract’ pricing – and that will literally eliminate bills for millions of people across the UK.
“Every part of this plan has been legally vetted, checked with experts, and costed. What we are offering in this election is real change.”
The party will also announce plans for a new Charter of Digital Rights. This would involve powers for individuals and collectives to challenge “algorithmic injustice”, where online algorithms “cause disproportionate harms to particular groups” and powers for individuals and collectives to prevent the use of digital infrastructure for surveillance.