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The broadband tax: Dead in the water?

Rory Cellan-Jones | 08:30 UK time, Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The government has two big ideas for broadband in Britain.

First, it wants to make sure just about everyone can get a bare minimum of 2Mbps by 2012, the so-called Universal Service Commitment.

Then it wants to make sure that ultra-fast broadband reaches those parts of the country the market won't serve by using a 50p a month tax on landlines to fill in the gaps.

Fibre opticsNow a report by a committee of MPs has effectively rubbished the whole policy, arguing that the government should keep out of next-generation broadband and worry far more about the detail of its plans for a universal service.

The report comes from the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee made up of MPs from across the parties - three Conservatives, six from Labour and two Liberal Democrats.

Along with some rather bland stuff - "We welcome Ofcom's intention to produce a second report on duct access" - it comes up with some pretty damning conclusions.

On the Universal Service Commitment, the MPs say this has "a budget of £200 million, without a clear definition of what it means". And they're unhappy about the body set up to work out how to get 2Mbps to everyone by 2012, the Network Design and Procurement Group.

They say this "will define its own targets, delivery mechanisms and terms of reference. This is not acceptable".

But it's that telephone tax - 50p per month for every landline to raise billions for fast broadband - which gets a real pounding:

"We believe that a 50 pence levy placed on fixed telecommunication lines is an ill-directed charge. It will place a disproportionate cost on a majority who will not, or are unable to, reap the benefits of that charge."

The MPs believe the charge is unfair, and if the government wants to fund fast broadband, it should be done out of general taxation.

The underlying message of the report is that the need for ultra-fast broadband is not that urgent and the market will probably provide it when consumers actually want it.

One MP told me that "the only people using 100Mbps right now are online gamers and crooks downloading movies for nothing".

It certainly looks like the 50p tax is dead in the water. The government is expected to put the levy in a Finance Bill after the upcoming budget and it appears unlikely to get into law before the election.

And even if a Labour government were returned to power, it's clear from this report that some of its own MPs see the landline levy as a bad idea.

The MPs believe that getting a minimum service to everyone, while trying to get online the 10 million people who have so far ignored the internet, should be the priority, rather than fussing about some fancy high-speed fibre network.

The Business Department thinks they're wrong about that. Here's the government's line:

"Next generation broadband is vital to the UK's growth and we want everyone to access the huge social, economic and health benefits it offers. Our analysis shows that without intervention, the market will only reach up to 70% of the country so it's vital we act now to ensure no area is left behind."

So a wider debate is opening up about the costs and importance of getting faster broadband - in effect, fibre networks - to those parts of the country the market won't reach. And the MPs may discover that, in some parts of the country, their report gets a very frosty reception.

Those unlikely radicals at the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) have themselves attacked the government's broadband policy - for not going far enough. The CLA says the £1bn the landline levy will raise is welcome but won't get fibre optic into every home.

The MPs on the Business Committee may find in the coming days that their inboxes are full with e-mails from angry rural broadband campaigners. But they believe that for the majority of their constituents, paying a tax to get fibre to every farm is a sure-fire vote-loser. Are they right?


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  • Comment number 1.

    What happens when the technology they lay down to get "everyone online" goes obsolete?

    Will that 50p be upped to £1 to cover the cost of replacing the old network with the new?

  • Comment number 2.

    Surely 2Mbps does not constitute "super fast broadband", it is the effective minimum useful speed to allow basic use of the internet (Facebook, YouTube, BBC News). At 2Mbps services such as iPlayer are barely useable.
    For most "super fast" represents speeds in excess of 10Mbps -it is important that we do not let the government mis-represent what is a basic need as some sort of "best practice".

  • Comment number 3.

    What if a person does not want or use broadband, They will still be forced to pay. This is Govenment forcing them to pay for big business mistakes yet again. I live within one mile of our exchange and still dont get 2Mbs sold as 8mbs

  • Comment number 4.

    If I moaned about every tax that I paid that didn't serve my needs then I'd never shut up.

    If I pay the 50% of my salary in tax (average estimate including income tax, NI, council tax, road tax, VAT etc etc etc), I would argue that I don't see the equivalent money back in benefits for me. It's the same with all taxation. This is no different. The people at the bottom (those without good broadband) need help and by levying this tax the technology can be improved.

  • Comment number 5.

    The problem in my eyes is that 2meg is pretty much only just enough for today's level of broadband usage. It's going to take years to implement by which time the "just enough" level will have moved to 8meg.

    FTTH needs pushing. Every house that can get electricity from the grid should also be able to get a optical fibre. ISPs can limit the speed to 50/100 meg but it keeps us safe until we need "up to" 40gbps (distance-limiting at high speed).

    Sounds a little more future-proof than getting rural areas an entire 2mbps, doesn't it?

    It would cost billions, perhaps even trillions but it would lead to an explosion of technological development never seen before in the western world. I'd happily chip in £200 as a one-off "broadband tax" if it meant improving things for everybody like this.

  • Comment number 6.

    I have contributed to the growth of broadband infrastructure in this country for almost the past 15 years through being an early adopter, and thus paying high prices for services that have become commonplace and inexpensive in the years that follow.

    Alongside this, I live in an overcrowded and polluted city but dream of living in the countryside, and might be able to if only planning laws and the hallowed greenbelt were not designed to pull the ladder up for the benefit of those already living there.

    I strongly object to yet another tax just so those in rural areas can have their cake and eat it. Why don't they tax everyone 50p and use it to give me a garden?!

  • Comment number 7.

    I have no objections to the tax. With one proviso: that once the infrastructure is complete usage is a free service. I would object to paying twice!

  • Comment number 8.

    I think the old farcical way of having Broadband brought to our homes through wires wires that need to be dug up and laid for every home is so expensive and disruptive. Have one 'fat tube' coming into the rural area and install a wireless dome in the village or town, the same as what is being rolled out in Swindon with The use of street furniture to put the wifi nodes (repeaters) means no digging! And you get the 2mbps that the Gov want! Get your council to contact Digital City UK about their Wifi tech I say... I know I will be. I would much rather have this than jack hammers and jcb's cluttering up my village while they lay fibre.

  • Comment number 9.

    I love the idea that a tax is bad if it "will place a disproportionate cost on a majority who will not, or are unable to, reap the benefits of that charge".

    Remind me again, how are we paying for the Olympics?

  • Comment number 10.

    As a rural user of the internet do I have to wait until the system is active in most urban areas before we get it, and I am presuming we pay for this in advance. I would not mind the 50p charge once the installation is up and running in my property. I do not wish to be taxed for years, for a system which gives me no benefits.
    Can people also stop defining rural as 'being on a farm'. I live on a main road, holiday route in the South West and after waiting years for broadband, the service in terms of speed is still poor.

  • Comment number 11.

    The MPs have got it right here. What govt should be doing is regulating the providers properly. My ISP has just 'upgraded' me to an up to 8Mb service from a 2Mb package, at compulsory extra cost to me, despite their own 'offer' stating that the maximum they can provide at my address is 1.5Mb. (In fact I rarely get close to 1Mb). What other industry charges you for a service they admit they are not able to provide?
    In respect of an earlier post, despite this low speed I can still run Internet services, including IPLayer at low res. Faster downloads and High Res would be welcome, but would they change the world?

  • Comment number 12.

    I don't get this.

    The most vital thing that 99% of businesses need from the internet is email.

    I am unusual in that I use the internet for live recording sessions and moving large files for my work, but talking to all my friends and clients, I really am the odd one out.

    I don't see super high speed broadband as a right, purely as an aspiration. And I am not happy about paying a tax for an aspiration.

    Most (but not all) of my family have some sort of connection for the internet for their work and messing around. But when it comes to making contact with each other, whatever the age, they still all pick up the phone.

    It is easier!

  • Comment number 13.

    28Kbps is still defined by Ofcom as functional Internet access, so the 2Meg USC will look like superfast in comparison. Though words like 'virtually all homes' do crop up, and clauses to allow get outs for where 2Meg is hard to do.

    In theory the NDPG is meant to try and use NGA solutions for the USC if a good use of the money, but I am not holding my breath. Also no idea of whether the small projects will see any of the money, as how the bidding process will work (i.e. granularity) is undefined.

    2Meg for all by 2012, starting to look unlikely, only 22 months to go and no request for bids has been made yet.

  • Comment number 14.

    Paul (comment 2) - just to be clear, nobody is claiming that 2Mbps is "super fast broadband". That is the minimum speed supposedly promised in the Universal Service Commitment - and by the way in an early version of this post I called it a Universal Service Obligation, getting one rather crucial word wrong.

    Ultra fast, super fast, next generation access - whatever you call it means speeds of more than you can get out of copper. So 40Mbps and higher.

  • Comment number 15.

    The thing is this broadband tax will only hit people that don't have broadband, such as older people who wouldn't benefit from the tax anyway if they have no desire to get online.

    More and more of the younger generation won't have a fixed landline, I know I certainly don't intend to, my mobile phone serves me just fine and I'm never at home to use a landline anyway, internet will come from someone like virgin via a cable, so I would have no use for a BT landline.

  • Comment number 16.

    If they need extra cash to cover the cost of installing broadband, why doesn't the government just put it down on expenses?!

  • Comment number 17.

    It's about time these people campaigning to get fibre into the middle of nowhere (and those in government that are pandering to their demands) faced reality - it will cost tens of billions of pounds to bring fibre to every farm and hamlet in the country. This will never be economically viable, 50p tax or not.

    But the question needs to be asked: Why exactly do we need fibre? I've seen BBC iPlayer running on a set top box on a large TV with excellent picture quality - over a 2 Mbit/s line in rural Somerset. Even with two or three HD screens on simultaneously, 10 Mbit/s seems perfectly acceptable as a target going forward. The technology to do this exists today and if anywhere, the bottleneck is actually in the back haul networks which carry data back from telephone exchanges and mobile phone towers.

    If the government and the end users really want ubiquitous fast coverage, far better to invest in satellite broadband, rather than the pipedream of a fibre network that will in reality never cover more than towns and cities. Such high-speed satellite services have been launched in North America and now millions of rural users enjoy speeds of 5 Mbit/s and more. The next generation of these satellites could bring speeds of over 25 Mbit/s to consumers, by 2012, and for a hundredth of the cost of a nationwide fibre roll out.

  • Comment number 18.

    This has nothing to do with the government and they should keep out of it, this is down to the telecoms companies as they have to provide a network for communication and so far they have failed (except Virgin and their fibre). BT need to get away from Copper wire lines and install fibre (in pipes in sewers from each exchange to the green box for local carrier connection, as these are connected to 99.99% of EVERY HOME and Business in the country!) Costs are reduced due to NO roads or paths to dig up, laying these cables also takes up less time and less disruption to the road and pedestrian traffic. It also cuts out the issue of low speed due to distance from exchange excuse we hear all the time as distance on fibre is not a problem for data transfer. Give me the job and a team of telecoms engineers and we will have the whole country done with fibre at a fraction of the cost of the Network design Group will cost and a lot quicker!

  • Comment number 19.

    I now suspect that the broadband tax was in fact an aunt sally, waiting to be knocked down but opening up the debate on high-speed internet access for the UK as a whole. If anyone had come up with the suggestion that broadband should be funded out of general taxation as the opening position it would probably have been shot down in flames by the very same people who are now saying that it's the way to fund this.

  • Comment number 20.

    This is pretty much the issue I contacted you about 2 months ago Rory, so I'm glad to see MPs are catching up at last! There's no doubt in my mind that before taxing everyone to provide SFB to a minority USC has to happen, and it must be in such a way that anyone who wants 2Mbps can get it for the majority of the time at the same cost as everyone else (i.e. no stupidly expensive satellite systems), even if that means replacing ancient infrastructure in rural areas.

  • Comment number 21.

    Paul Freeman-Powell wrote > "If they need extra cash to cover the cost of installing broadband, why doesn't the government just put it down on expenses?!"


    Yea, right next to the duck house and naughty movies.

  • Comment number 22.

    Out here in rural Devon things look very different from how they must seem in London.

    I'm lucky - I live close to a BT sub-exchange. But many of my friends and neighbours struggle to get any kind of workable download speed - anyt site with video embedded including much of the BBC website takes AGES to load, YouTube is a dream and their so-called broadband drops out regularly.

    I therefore agree wholeheartedly with the Select Committee. Being forced to pay so Londoners and other big city folks can have fast broadband while we country bumpkins get nothing would be an outrageous abuse of politics and a tax too far.

    Public policy should be directed at making broadband available to everyone. 2Mb is not really broadband but I guess it's the best we can hope for. The rest is for the market.

  • Comment number 23.

    While I agree with the USC, and see broadband as a similar right to eg mains gas, I dont agree with the broadband tax. There are many benefits to living in rural areas, and many disadvantages too. But all are known to people when they decide to live there.

    I chose to move to a city because things like nightlife and superfast broadband are more important to me than things like clean air and magnificent views.

    There are many applications online that require more than 2Mbps, but none are essential. Did you know for instance, that programmes on iPlayer are actually broadcast on television? ;-)

  • Comment number 24.

    I live in the country, I'm on a low income, and get a max of 3 Mbps if I'm very very lucky!! So it will not in all likely help me. But I still support the 50p tax. What if people in towns and city's demanded to have cheaper postal rates than people in the country on the grounds it costs more for me to have my post delivered.
    Where do you stop. if you just keep to What's in it for Me?
    50p is not a lot to pay to help everyone receive some kind of broadband service.

  • Comment number 25.

    I run a small computing business in the Scottish Borders and I still have customers on dialup because they can't get broadband at all. One lady gets 30k! Another business customer has had to get satellite broadband at what cost I shudder to think. These people need help more than people who just have relatively slow speeds.

    I live in the town and I get 6.5 out of 8 max.

  • Comment number 26.

    So our MP's think the decent internet access speeds only serves gamers and internet pirates. I think they are judging us by there own standards and unfortunately.

    Unlike them we are not all crooks who cant work email. Many of rely on decent internet access to run our businesses.

    In my own case a chip design company where most employees, because of the specialised nature of the skills are distributed over the country and work from home.

  • Comment number 27.

    The bigger issue here is that the government seems to have completely missed the point on what is and will hold back economic development via the internet.

    Its hard to imagine what benefit the average user would get from 100 MB broadband - yes, downloads would be faster, but average broadband use is well under 10 GB per month per household.

    However, its that bandwidth usage that is most likely to change, because streaming is bandwidth intensive, and ISP are making concerted moves to prevent households using the sort of bandwidth that would allow them to benefit from more streaming, even as new and more innovative streaming services come online.

    My broadband has queitely been downgraded from "unlimited" to "40 GB" (the small print was at the bottom of the last page of the letter they sent, and so small it took glasses to read it), and "unlimited" packages are very much the exception rather than the rule now - compare that with a few years ago.

    And my mobile broadband is "unlimited" but the small print tells me "unlimited" means no more than 1 GB a month (an odd redefinition of the word unlimited) and that streaming is "verboten".

    Britain is now at a major disadvantage compared to the rest of the world because industry imposed restrictions on bandwidth designed to save money and boost profits are already stifling if not snuffing out the growth of new businesses such as the US's Netflix.

    If the government wants to fix something that will make a difference and give a chance of increased economic output it needs to switch its targets.

  • Comment number 28.

    If we paid for the actual speed we received, in the same way we pay for the gas/electricity we use, or phone usage, rather than a mythical 'up to' we pay a fixed fee every month for, you can bet your life the ISP's and telecomms industries would ensure we could all get 100Mbs. No need for silly taxes then.

  • Comment number 29.

    The real story here would have been to reveal the truth about the "Universal Service Commitment". This does not exist and will not exist! We are not going to get 2Mb for all by 2012 or even by 2017.

    If you actually read the Digital Britain report you will see how carefully it has been worded. The way round it they use is to say that anyone will be able to get 2Mb. But this is already true - you can install your own satellite dish, and the costs are huge. I would be pleased if we even had a Universal Service Commitment to 1Mb by 2015, that is better than what many get now, living too far from the exchange.

    All they needed to do was force BT to install fibre to *all* the green cabinets. That would give 2Mb to almost everyone, even me.

  • Comment number 30.

    This proposed tax makes me absolutely livid. This government has loaded the largest tax burden in our history on those in work, and while still bankrupting the country (again), comes up with this new tax. It may sound harsh, but broadband provision to absolutely everyone is NOT a duty of a government, or of interest to most people. We have a market for that, and people have to decide where it is sustainable and commercially sensible to live and do business. I resent having to pay a not insignificant extra amount for my service in order to pay for something not even slightly on my radar, when the taxes we already pay are astronomical. This socialist government needs to back off! Thank goodness for some sensible peer review in Parliament

  • Comment number 31.

    Rory, care to name and shame the MP who doesn't know what on earth he's on about? -

    "One MP told me that "the only people using 100Mbps right now are online gamers and crooks downloading movies for nothing"."

    People will download films regardless, 100Mbps would however make it easier for legitimate services to allow film streaming and do away with piracy somewhat. Online gamers don't need 100Mbps because the bandwidth used by games is closer to 10Kbps- a few orders of magnitude lower than this MP seems to think. Clearly if he does not know what he is on about, he is in no position to comment on the situation and should keep out of it, or otherwise actually bother to learn about the subject.

    As for the idea of concentrating on getting the 10 million who have ignored the internet online rather than a "fancy fibre network", what a load of tosh. So we should create a substandard network for everyone including the 10 million people who don't care or want it, rather than build a world class network for everyone who does care and wants it? That's classical political non-logic, and makes absolutely no sense at all, they're basically saying we should waste money giving something to people who don't want it, rather than investing in improving it for those who do, this is blatantly absurd. Some people don't want to use the internet and shouldn't have, it's as simple as that, but it doesn't mean the rest of us need suffer as the UK slips ever further down the global broadband speed rankings to the point we're now dropping below even some 3rd world countries.

  • Comment number 32.

    I live in a town where many roads were never connected to cable because they ran out of money digging up the pavements to install it. At present therefore my only option is via copper telephone wire controlled by BT. I can use broadband suppliers other than BT but generally this is by using LLU (Local Loop Unbundling) but that makes changing suppliers expensive and difficult. However the service development is paid for in future can we require that the means to ensure choice of service provider is made simpler and cheaper.

  • Comment number 33.

    Why is broadband provision so different that it should be singled out for a special tax to pay for it? And why is it more important that people in remote areas should have broadband than local shops, hospitals, schools and so on? Will we have a post office tax next to pay for maintaining post offices in small communities?

    People have a choice whether to live in remote areas or not, and the availability or not of certain services should be one of the considerations.

  • Comment number 34.

    Nick Jones,

    "This is no different. The people at the bottom (those without good broadband) need help and by levying this tax the technology can be improved."

    OK - but the Government's proposal is to tax "the people at the bottom" exactly the same as those at the top to fund the help they need.

    Meanwhile, as John-L says, the countryside isn't all farms. There are some very well-off people in rural areas (long-distance commuters and second home owners) who will also benefit from this scheme, alongside the low-income households in the area. In fact, the better-off benefit more, because they have the money to buy not only the broadband connection, but the all associated hardware necessary to use it. If you're really struggling to make ends meet, splashing out on computer may not be an option.

    I'm not arguing that we should means-test guaranteed access to broadband, any more than I would advocate only providing bin collections or electricity connections to households below a certain income threshold. If we've decided as a country that broadband is a necessary utility, then we must ensure that everyone has it.

    But as I see it, the effect of the current proposal is to tax the poor. Personally, I find that rather ironic, given that our current government is (nominally) Labour. There are much better ways to raise the money, so why have they gone down this route?

  • Comment number 35.

    As someone who works within the IT profession I can confidently say that increased broadband speeds will ultimately benefit EVERYONE.

    My reasoning is simple. Firstly conventional 'broadband' is highly asynchronous, that is it's much faster downstream then it is upstream. This is fine for watching video etc but can be flawed for many types of home working. Fibre doesn't suffer with this problem.

    Many simple line-of-business applications such as MS Access databases will not run unless they have a substantial amount of bandwidth. Yes, these can be optimised to run on lower-bandwidth connections but most smaller businesses won't have the expertise to do it.

    Also rural businesses require upstream bandwidth to serve their own homeworkers.

    What I'm getting at is that the more people can work from home the better it will be for the economy and ultimately the environment too.

  • Comment number 36.

    These MP's seem to believe that all the internet is needed for is one person per household reading e-mail, flirting with social network sites, and suffering through the odd, low quality YouTube video clip.

    For example, fast broadband can revolutionize television broadcasting, making services like iPlayer the norm not the exception. My children already watch more TV via iPlayer than they do 'live' ... and they do it via their easy-to-use Nintendo WII console not some 20th century-style, user-hostile, Windows-based computer. They watch only what they really want to watch and not just what happens to be on at the time. Fewer arguments about who watches or who records what, when, etc. Thank you, BBC and others for these services.

    ... but thanks to this government's poor policies wrt and regulation of the telecomms industries over the last decade (and BT ought to hang their heads in shame too for their part), we only get a fraction of the speed advertised by our ISP and our connection drops out at peak times. As a result on-demand TV does not work nearly as well as it should especially when I need to download something for work, or my wife is in a video-conference with her boss, etc, at the same time.

  • Comment number 37.

    According to statistics from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) from June 2009, the UK had 28.9 broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants, compared with
    38.1 per 100 in the Netherlands,
    37 in Denmark and
    34.5 in Norway.
    (see and click on 1. Table 1d)
    The UK's position among OECD countries is at no. 13, with Iceland, Switzerland, Sweden, Korea, Finland, Luxembourg, Canada, Germany and France also ranked higher.
    (The equivalent figure for the US was 26.7 broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants, at no 15.)
    I'd be interested to know what policies in those top countries make for the greater take-up.

    Presumably increased broadband access helps drive increased internet use - but I imagine other factors like cost when using it and media literacy are important too.

    I think we get distracted by talk of super high and discussions about the higher bandwidth uses like downloading films etc.
    Instead, focus on:
    Can everyone in the country send an email without difficulty? Can everyone access information without a problem, even if from a low-graphics site?
    Can everyone book a ticket or pay for something at the online reduced rate without a problem - again, even if on a low-graphics version of the website?

    If not, then that's where the connectivity money and efforts should be concentrated.

  • Comment number 38.

    If it'v "vital for the UK's (i.e. big business') growth", then big business should pay for it.

  • Comment number 39.

    Just to pick up on the comment about satellite broadband, yes you can get relatively high bandwidth from very remote places but latency (that is, how long it takes a small packet of information to get from the user to the ISP and back to the user) is larger than that of even an old dial-up connection.

    A 56k modem gives you roughly 200-400ms latency. A satellite is 500-1800ms.

    Now for most people, this might not be an issue. You can still do most things but the experience would be broken up with large pauses while the request is sent and returned. It's fine for data transfer but it's a horrible experience if you know what proper low latency (10-50ms) broadband feels like.

    On the technical side this latency stops you doing things: No voice over IP. No gaming. No enjoying the internet because loading a typical page triggers dozens of requests, each with a second of lag.

    Oh yes, don't forget the £700 setup fee and the £30/month for a paltry level of bandwidth allowance.

  • Comment number 40.

    The Swindon idea is the way to go-if a farmer cant get piped gas up to his house, why should the rest of his neighbours subsidise a duct for fibre? All of these farmers have a roof, do they not? So stick a blooming aerial on it, or his silo container, and point it at the nearest access point.

    Its not rocket science!!

  • Comment number 41.

    i have two telephone lines (BT and cable - the cable line comes bundled with my tv)

    and i have been 'promised' in a letter dated 26th october 2009 from stephen timms MP in the dept for business etc etc etc that "where a household has both cable and telephone (sic) connections, the levy will be payable only once"

    and we know that ministers never lie

    but it would be better if this tax didnt happen

    i live 1.5km from the exchange and can only get 6.5mbps max, but actually get just under 5.... and thats in london

  • Comment number 42.

    As one ages, cynicism takes hold. I wonder about Westminster's altruistic concern with the Internet. In my head it is linked to the introduction of the ID card, and one wonders how long before the two will be linked in the real world as well. How long before Westminster sets up a department which determines one's eligibility to access which portions of the net, using ones' ID number as the authorisation code? Conversely of course, which portions of the Net will one NOT be allowed to access?
    I do not trust Westminster. Its works to its own agenda, not ours.

  • Comment number 43.

    I work at home, in rural Devon, writing software and working in a computer-intensive business. I shift a lot of data up and down the connection to my home.

    At 5km from the exchange I get 2MBits/second, and guess what: it is enough to do the job. Not great, but adequate.

    If it proves to be insufficient in the future I can get a 2nd telephone line, "bond" it to the first, and double my speed. It would cost about £100 to install - not peanuts, but not unreasonable either.

    The only people in my house who complain about the broadband speed are my children when running IPlayer or similar. Hardly critical, and a small price to pay for the benefits of living here.

    I'm sceptical about the supposed benefits of ultra fast broadband. Yes, it would be nice to have, but the only thing which actually needs that sort of bandwidth is real-time TV, and that funny metal thing with spikes on our roof seems to do a pretty good job of delivering 40+ channels at zero additional cost. Good technology, it's just a pity that most of the content is complete garbage!

    I'm no fan of this government, but in suggesting 2MBits/s as a goal for a universal service I think, for once, they have actually got it right. We don't need (and can't afford) the incredibly expensive "fibre to the home" solution that 100MBit+ speeds would require, but the much more achievable "fibre to the cabinet" should do the job pretty well if the goal is 2MBits/s.

    As for a 50p levy on land-lines - well it's beyond stupid for a whole host of reasons that plenty of others have listed. It's both too little to do the job and grossly unfair to those who will never be internet users yet still need a phone line. Personally I'd take it as a levy on all existing broadband users, based on how much they download - perhaps 10p per GByte, with nothing to pay if you download less than a GByte in a month. This seems a much fairer solution to me.

  • Comment number 44.

    All this rubbish from a government whos last leader admitted he didn't even know how to send an e-mail! Mmmm.

  • Comment number 45.

    What really gets to me about this whole debacle is the constant obsession of both the media and the Government with the extreme ends of the scale. Figures from remote areas are often quoted alongside urban areas and the people who live in small (but not remote) towns are completely ignored.

    I live in a town of around 6000 residents and we can only get broadband via ADSL. We don't have any LLU providers nor Cable. We're stuck with "up to 8mbit/sec" and I would dearly like to see that improve, especially since my provider (O2) is completely overloaded and cannot cope with the customers it has subscribed.

    Every evening I have to put up with a connection speed of less than 1Mbit/sec, but I can see one of the UK's largest cities from my street. Will you guys ever report on towns like mine?

  • Comment number 46.

    For those suggesting the wireless option- that used in Swindon is a suitable solution, you're wrong.

    Wireless is far too high latency and far too low bandwidth to be practical as a solution. Fibre to the cabinet is really the only bare minimum sensible option.

  • Comment number 47.

    Does this tax extend to cable lines? Those that ditched copper wire land lines in favour of cable can use VoIP only services which means they wouldn't pay. And what about those who have switched to mobile only services? How do they pay? Should they pay? This tax is a really, really stupid proposal.

    And also, what about all the 80 year old Gerty Wotsherfaces down the road. A lot of these folk are never going to have broadband. So why should they be expected to pay for the broadband revolution (cough) ?

    There are so many reasons why this proposal could be considered moronic, but aside them, I firstly object on principle.

  • Comment number 48.

    So when most of the country gets super fast broadband are we still going to be tied to the ridicules download limits? The MP reported said only gamers and pirates use the high speed service what about all our major TV stations now providing the facility to stream programs to your computer?. Many people have started using these services only to find they have no idea how large the file is they are downloading and have in fact exceeded their down load allowance and are getting charged for it. As ever the UK is so far behind the rest of the world and its internet users are getting charged for being so to boot.

  • Comment number 49.

    I`m not sure why I will be subjected to yet another tax when I feel that the others levied against me should be paying for this (and a great deal of other things that seem sadly lacking). I`m also not too sure what the benefits for myself are. I already pay for my broadband connection so why will I be paying for someone else`s. Does this mean I should be contributing to filling up someone else`s car at the filling station when I`m there??? :)

  • Comment number 50.

    Surely the first few "British Snow Disasters" will pay for this anyway as we can actually work from home when the trains and buses can't run instead of paying the price for all this theoretical "lost productivity"...

    Fairly soon, having fast broadband is going to be like having a phone line. Some people now can't see it now, but in ten years we're going to wonder how we ever survived without it. The government needs to take the long view on this.

  • Comment number 51.

    Did BT not come up with an advert stating that High Speed Broadband was the future which would result in less traffic on the road due to more people working from home??

    The simple solution is install fibre, from the main exchanges to the little green boxes, lines from there to the home will do the rest. We already have two network infrastructures already set up throughout the whole of the UK that will support the requirement of High Speed Broadband for all - The Sewers and Rail networks.

    Along every mile of rail is a small track purely for communication purposes, also we have a huge network of sewers where an "enclosed pipe can be installed underneath each exchange and fibre "routed" to each green Junction box:

    It would not cost the earth and as BT are still required to uphold and upgrade the network and accordingly should role this out immediately, they can ask for the additional 50p on each bill to help pay for this - dont forget the ISP's do not run the network - they rent it from BT. BT are actually the one's holding up the upgrade to high speed broadband NOT the government.

  • Comment number 52.

    Living in the rural area's is a choice that people make. If they wish to live in those area's then they have to accept the consequences of the choice that they make. Part of that decision making is broadband access.

    I would like to move out of the town to a more rural area, however this would mean giving up cetain services such as fast broadband, and good train services that I currently enjoy, hence why I have not moved out to a more rural area.

  • Comment number 53.

    Given that most people don't get anything like a good return for their tax, what's another £12 a year?

    I'd far rather quibble where the rest of my money goes!

  • Comment number 54.

    It is important to differentiate between the USC and NGA needs. The USC commits to all having 2Mbps good service and NGA significantly higher with different thresholds depending on which report one reads and the location. It seems like away from the cities something like 4Mbps will be good enough for NGA.

    Meeting these needs will require multiple different services using differing technologies depending on location, from fibre in the major cities with many busy users close together via DSL and cellular to satellite broadband in the more rural areas. The choice for many will then be on price/performance/service offering.

  • Comment number 55.

    If British Telecom seem unwilling to invest in there network surely it is time to consider that BT not a telecom company but an aide to intercepting communications for the government and police - and so a new infrastructure organisation needs to do what the managers at bt don't wish to do which is lay cables to hub sites for usage by all.

    A tax for funding the incompetence of british telecom to deliver profits for there shareholders is plain wrong. Cleary BT plc wishes to sell phone calls and advertising via pfrom, not run networks.

    Phone lines already pay a hefty line fee per month to BT regardless of supplier so it is not like BT are a charity.

  • Comment number 56.

    I live in EAST LONDON and can't even get a decent broadband connection. It may be Talk Tlak being completly useless but maybe broadband needs to be improved here before we spend billions giving better connections to those in the middle of nowhere. I happened to be in rural Lincolnshire last week (mud roads, no lights for miles etc) and got a better 3G reception on my mobile than I do in London!!

    Taxing a fixed amount per landline is wrong. As others have mentioned, this will disproportionatly affect the elderly and 'less well off'.

  • Comment number 57.

    In the meantime would it be possible to be smarter with the "Internet on my Telly" content provided by BBC Red Button and Ceefax, Sky Text, Teletext Ltd and BigStream Interactive for Five and so on for those folk who don't wish to have a computer in their home and would like to continur to have Over Air services?

  • Comment number 58.

    I live in a fairly urban area where I receive broadband. I would, in time, like to move to a more rural environment and would expect not to get the same broadband speeds for obvious reasons. If broadband speed was a driving factor over the rural location then I might stay put but I would not expect others to pay for what is essentially my choice of where to live.
    Can we expect a water tax for those who want to be connected to mains sewerage out in the middle of nowhere? The same goes for mobile covereage. People in the middle of nowhere unable to get signal at all or poor signal at best. This is simple economics based on service providers and the perceived income against cost ratio of any service they provide.
    Well, the bottom line is, I currently have two landlines at home. I will not have two landlines if this tax ever becomes law.
    I do wonder what the urban/rural split is in the demographics of the House of Commons?

  • Comment number 59.

    My experience of current broadband is what the whole of the country (outside London) has to put up with.

    My speed is 1.7Mb/sec because I am on a rural exchange.

    So "Almondsbury", north of Bristol is classed as a rural exchange which supplies many parts of Bradley Stoke. Thus parts of Bradley Stoke (a large town on the outskirts of the City of Bristol) get a lower download speed than I do with no chance of an upgrade YET.

    The wilds of Wales, Cumbria, Scotland, etc will end up remaining in the dark ages long after the above exchange has been upgraded.

    Then the supposed "3G" mobile broadband lies that have been spouted by salesmen on commission to the un-educated non-techy customer. This customer is then fobbed off when they find is unusable for what they want (less than 400K/sec cannot download anything from the BBC's own i-Player.
    I think the whole Broadband supply spin needs to show some requirements, deliverables and implementation for me to feel comfortable with the extra 50p tax that I will have to pay. When my broadband nearers the up to 8Mb/sec that I am currently paying for then that will satisfy my requirements than the current less than 2Mb/sec I get.

    These huge companies will do nothing unless they can see profits from their outlay. That is why all the Cable TV network has now stopped expanding and BT will not upgrade the rural exchanges/lines.

    The UK will remain low down the broadband league until the monopolistic companies are forced to upgrade. I would pay a small additional expenditure on my line IF IT WAS UPGRADED TO FTTH (thus spread the cost over say two to four years whilst being tied into a contract).



  • Comment number 60.

    I run a web design company in a village in the Thames Valley. We get 2Mb. It is absolutely fine for running the 300 web sites that we maintain for clients. I watch the BBC iplayer regularly and it works OK at this speed, not HD. I have various clients who either cannot get broadband at all or are on less than 1Mb. These are the people who need assistance. I am happy to contribute 50p to help these people. I am not interested in supporting higher speed users to be able to watch multiple TV programs at once.

  • Comment number 61.

    £6 a year to help fund a high-speed publicly owned telecomms network? Sure, that's fine. But paying extra for a paltry connection speed to reach all parts of the country is a pretty poor deal.

    Start talking about offering minimum speeds of 24 MBps to the whole country, then it might be good value, even if it does prop up private companies.

  • Comment number 62.

    As of April 2010 all companies must submit their VAT returns online.

    What about the small businesses that do not own a computer?

    What about the businesses that reside in areas where broadband still does not exist? There are still areas within the M25 that cannot get broadband.

    Surely the broadband infrastructure should come in to place before legally forcing people to use it.

  • Comment number 63.

    Some of the respondents to this blog seem to be missing the point. The Universal Service Committment (USC) is about ensuring that everyone can interact with "democracy" online and poor kids can look things up for their homework. The theory is that poorer people actually ens up spending more because they can't pay bills online or access information about benefits etc. The USC has nothing to do with providing ubiquitous access to iPlayer, YouTube and online gaming.

    Having said all that, a tax on landlines seems barmy. Why not just be honest and take the money from general taxation if needed.

  • Comment number 64.

    Is it not up to the privatised, profit making companys such as BT to fund their own infrastructure. Will we have an additional petrol tax next to fund BP's oil pipelines or a new transport tax (added to the multitude of others) to fund railtracks lines, or even a new computer tax to fund windows 8 (cant expect poor Bill Gates to pay.
    We already have PAYE tax to fund MP's second homes and extravagant life expenses.

  • Comment number 65.

    If the MPs were forced to vote from their constituencies and conduct meetings through Video Conferencing, they might learn what connectiviy actually means, and thus reach a different conclusion.

    Some of the conclusions are really sloppy and BT /Carphone said demand for bandwidth was uncertain when;

    1) There is 40% year on year growth in data traffic,
    2) Encumbents including Carphone are sitting on legacy voice service reveneus refusing to invest to improve and move to IP based multi-media communications
    3)The transformation of health care delivery, education, travel reduction (plus numerous other task substitution exercises) is all dependent on better networking.
    4) Existing broadband is configured around a peak hour browsing experience of 30Kbps per person.

    On the day most of the members Kirkbride, Opik et al were wandering in and out, obsessing on an occasional bit of detail for two minutes but paying no attention to proceedings and demonstrated no detailed understanding of why existing operators were failing to use the internet to re-invent their own core services.

    No demand? Former head of the Post Office, stated why would I need a phone when I have a boy to deliver messages. This committee might as well have written? Why do I need high speed networking when I have two or three homes?

  • Comment number 66.

    My Son lives on a new housing estate without Cable facilities so everybody is restricted to connect either by land line or mobile dongle. He is so far from the exchange his land line download speed is on average 0.250 to 0.275

  • Comment number 67.

    Is there any labour policy that doesn't involve an ever greater tax burden to me?

    Any prospective MP supporting this policy (or ID cards) will not be getting my vote come the long awaited general election.

  • Comment number 68.

    2Mbps is a good starting point, but so long as its stable. My "service" is with a certain company that insists on playing you Neon Rainbow for 45 mins every time you call. I have been disconnected for the last week - spending all my time on hold.
    Even when my connection worked, i could never get online between 5 - 9 pm. If that is the gov's solution, i dont really see it being worth 50p, let alone 50p each month!
    Also, becuase i live in Norfolk, i cant get channel 5 / most DAB / freeview / the list goes on... i very much doubt they will remeber little old norfolk. Im sure a lot of you will think "why do you need internet anyway - your all potato farmers" but thats not quite true...

  • Comment number 69.

    The trouble with taxes of this type (a)- It won't stay at 50p (b)It won't be ringfenced for this particular purpose[e.g the Road Fund Licence]
    Why should people who don't have a computer have to cough up.
    In any case I believe it's another way of raising revenue for this cash strapped Government.


  • Comment number 70.

    Part of the trouble is not the - speed - but the limit on file size. I have a BT 'up to 8' service and it works reasonably well and is fast enough that I can cope with it... however if I was to use something like BBC IPlayer I would go though my entire monthly download limit in an hour or two easily. Streaming demands LARGE downloads - effectivly so huge as to be in the old meaning of the word - unlimited. As opposed to the new defenition by the companies which is that unlimited means whatever we choose it to be!

  • Comment number 71.

    This sounds like a very short sighted approach by the MPs. Broadband is a moving target, 2Mbps is a fine universal requirement today, but what about in 2, 4 or 8 years time, it will not meet the growing demand. If we took this approach with electricity country folk would only be allowed enough electricity to power their lights! Broadband is an important utility and should not be a postcode lottery, especially when we're closing Post Offices and other rural services because you can do everything online. It feeds into other things as well, if the BBC can't deliver iPlayer to everyone who wants it, then why should they be charged for it like their urban counterparts?

  • Comment number 72.

    It's all very well talking about 2Mbps. According to my ISP I can get "up to 8Mbps". What that means in practice, is up to 4Mbps at quiet times like 7am and on Sundays, and less than 1Mbps the rest of the time. Barely adequate for anything other than reading email. I tried a subscription to Sky Player but cancelled it because it doesn't work well enough often enough to be useable. By the way, this is in London, not in the middle of a field somewhere.

  • Comment number 73.

    Sorry, have I missed something? At what point did society become so dependent on the internet that we can't possibly fuction unless everyone has access to ultra fast broadband? I neither have nor need a landline, or broadband connection, I use th einternet very infrequently (mainly lunchbreak....) as I prefer to spend my time in the real world socialising with real people. I can't see any reason I should have to pay tax so people can spend their lives sat in front of a computer, if people want the service its up to them to pay for it, if they can't afford it..tough, thats the way it is, I'd like to live in masion and drive a ferrari, but I can't afford it, will the government impose a tax on my behalf? Here's an idea, why not take that 50p and invest it something useful like the NHS, education.......

  • Comment number 74.

    NorthernTory wrote:
    Given that most people don't get anything like a good return for their tax, what's another £12 a year?

    whats 0.5 * 12 again?

  • Comment number 75.

    All of the telecommunications services in this country are provided by private companies.

    If these private companies can see a business case to increase the reach of fast broadband they will invest in improving the network capabilities and the customers of these services will pay for it.

    It is not the place of governemt to raise money for use by private companies. If I pay my 50p tax, do I get some shares back from BT so I can get a share of the income they gather after improving the network? No? Thought not.

    Gas & electricity are also essential services - yet there are many people who are not supplied via the gas network, and a smaller number not served by the national electricity grid. But we're not asked for money to subsidise the private gas & electricity companies to bring these people onto the gas & electricity networks. Any householder off grid that want to be connected have to pay several thousands of pounds to be connected.

    So why should private telecoms companies & would be internet users be treated any differently?
    Let the market decide what needs to happen.

  • Comment number 76.

    greybeard1 wrote:
    Why should people who don't have a computer have to cough up.

    This is a tax for installation, not use. The above mentioned technophobe might buy a PC once its fittedm, and then they havent paid for anything! or soem who does have a PC might move into their house.

    The same applies for the "i dont want to pay to connect people who dont want to be connected" - how you you feel if 51% of your village/town/ciy didnt want 2Mbps? or do you want fibre going to your house, but not your neighbour?

  • Comment number 77.

    I currently have a separate landline for broadband and quite happily pay for it. I have no intention of paying a tax AND for broadband, so unless the government wants to contribute to my broadband bill I would like to know what they actually want the money for.

    Is there any intention to ringfence the money raised so that it clearly goes solely into the provision of a national broadband infrastructure or will it be like all the other taxes, straight into the unaccountable general pot?

  • Comment number 78.

    Its a Joke, Taxing people to get Broadband?, next they will be taxing us on fresh air (if there not already). Goverment needs to take a look at themself.

  • Comment number 79.

    The case for broadband, saves me £10 every day I work from home, plus not using a resource like diesel at the same time.

    I could move closer to the office, but mmm lets think lose £20,000 on the property, plus costs of moving and that area is more expensive for same sq footage.

    Faster broadband case, for work purposes, the ability to download the myriad of DVD images that are needed for supporting/developing on the various languages and versions of Windows that exist. Currently pay extra for a physical delivery of it all on CD. Already have a second line so VoIP is uninterrupted by browsing/streaming.

    I can get 10Meg for £1200 per month delivered over fibre/Ethernet - as can many businesses, just the cost/benefit versus £50 for contended 5Mbps does not quite stack up.

  • Comment number 80.

    Both Tories and Labour really are clueless when it comes to moving this country forward, as for the Lib-Dems they are still working on what “clueless” means.

    The plan is not “should be” but MUST be (at the very minimum) 100MBs download and 10Mbs upload for every home by the end of 2012. The South Koreans are already planning 2GB/s broadband for everyone in the 2012 timescale. Who says our politicians are clueless and lack vision and ambition for our country?

    Homes are looking for HD TV; television on demand; immediate download of movies and music; and support for a whole range of new internet enabled devices.

    Remember, Gordon Brown in his first attempt at bankrupting big business with the £20Billion auction of 3G licences, failed to see that in only a few years we would be running out of mobile bandwidth.

    The plan would be to create an integrated structure for super-fast broadband that would cover every home and business in the UK by 2012. There are a number of ways to do this:

    1. Tell BT that they either create the infrastructure of they lose it.
    2. If BT are unwilling or unable to make the investment themselves then other companies would be invited to make bids.
    3. The Government could fund the whole project AND take All the profits.
    4. A group of companies with or without government support could fund it together. Companies and government would take profits according to their original investment.

    Unfortunately, Tory ideas of the BBC funding broadband or Labour’s idea of a 50p tax are the sort of ideas one would expect from the calibre of politicians the country is electing these days.

    Everyday, it appears that we are getting closer and closer to becoming an Idiocracy. You definitely have to watch this movie and make judgements as to whether you think we are moving closer to this political utopia or back to a more sensible way of getting things done.

  • Comment number 81.

    Andrew Ferguson wrote:
    I could move closer to the office, but mmm lets think lose £20,000 on the property, plus costs of moving and that area is more expensive for same sq footage

    Dont forget the tax on moving house ;)

  • Comment number 82.

    Would people please stop whinging that they're not getting their full 8Mbps!? There is no such thing! This is ulmitately due to the contention ratio, which the ISP (whomever you're using if it's down a BT telephone line) effectively has imposed upon it by BT at the exchange. It's been a little while since I worked at an ISP, but the ratio of 50:1 for home users and 20:1 for business very probably still stands.
    This means that if you've signed up for an 8Mbps service on a residential contract, all that's obligated to you is a speed of 164Kbps, so if you're getting 1-2Mbps I'd say you're doing just fine! Throw into this your distance from the exchange and the related signal degradation down copper line which in many cases is decades old, it's no wonder you're not going to get the best service possible.
    Seriously if you find this speed insufficient, I suspect you're more likely to need to upgrade your own equipment first (throw out the BT homehub for example?). Alternately get a fibre service from Virgin.
    A complete upgrade of the physical infrastructure in this country is required, but let it come at its own pace - it will happen with market forces.

  • Comment number 83.

    I'm astonished that people believe it is a right to have broadband. Did we pay a tax so everyone got a phone line? Did we pay a tax so everyone got TV? Did we pay a tax so everyone got freeview? Did we pay tax so everyone got electricity and running water? Broadband is a service provided by a business. If we want the service, we pay for it. If the company doesn't provide the service then you shop around. But working on the theory that it is everyones right to have broadband, what about those that cannot afford it? Will it become free for everyone as it is their right to have it???????

  • Comment number 84.

    Lack of cabling isn't limited to rural areas anyway. If you want to get Virgin Media via fibre on Great Portland St in central London, you'll be told that cable isn't available in your area. So what? Well Virgin Media's corporate headquarters are situated on Great Portland St...

  • Comment number 85.

    After national defence and maintaining civil order, isn't investing in the future the single most important thing our government is there for? The Victorians built drains and railways using vast amounts of public money precisely because it is the only institution that can implement infrastructure at this level. Later on we had the social housing era, the motorways, the expansion of universities, etc. Now we need to look over the next horizon, and there's no doubt in my mind that whatever that future holds, it will be connected in a zillion ways and all of them at light speed. People who say we don't need superfast broadband because they cannot imagine anything beyond Facebook need to look beyond the parochial confines of their own selfishness. We are going to need not just superfast, but uberfast, terabit broadband, as wide as oceans, and delivered to every front door. And the sad thing is that whilst the political parties are currently lining up to spell out what they call their 'vision of the future', hardly one of them actually has any genuine vision of the future, just a vision of themselves in power. Take my 50p Messrs Brown and Cameron, but spend it wisely, p-l-e-a-s-e.

  • Comment number 86.

    The government should keep its nose out. It doesn't buy cars for people, or pay the bus fares, and it doesn't hand out free mobiles or give out free groceries in return of tax, so why should it do this. The usage will probably be costly and many people do not even want broadband. Lots will have to pay for this very low speed connection then have to privately upgrade anyway. The government is putting the same value on broadband as on education and healthcare. You pay tax and have a poor service with badly paid staff which amny end up never using anyway (private schooling and healthcare all the way)!!!

  • Comment number 87.

    I live in the country, not the middle of nowhere, but a fair bit out. I usually get speeds of 8kb/s. I don't like that.

    And who complains about having to pay an extra 50p a month? Come on.

  • Comment number 88.

    Apart from the tax being unfair it will not raise the sums needed to upgrade the broadband system. Also I wonder if we all really need super fast broadband. Surely all this is a matter for the market to sort out not govt. If our providers were forced to charge us for the actual service they provide maybe things would change. I'm paying for 8mb and I'm very lucky if I get 4mb.

  • Comment number 89.

    @Oli Warner and Andy

    "On the technical side this latency stops you doing things: No voice over IP. No gaming. No enjoying the internet because loading a typical page triggers dozens of requests, each with a second of lag."

    It sounds like you've never used a satellite system - these are the typical comments made by those who would promote the expensive fibre networks we don't need.

    The reality is that techniques to mitigate latency mean that the experience is really indistinguishable from browsing on any other connection. For example, the modem downloads content in the background so that it is ready for your next request before you view it.

    I have personally used the web, iPlayer, Skype and games over a satellite link. The *only* application that doesn't work acceptably is real-time shoot 'em ups like Call of Duty (however driving games are fine). However, these don't really require a lot of bandwidth - 512k ADSL is fine. Are we really talking about taxing everyone so that little Jonny can play on his Xbox in those rare locations that such slow links are not available?

    It could even be argued that satellite is better than many other technologies for some applications - for example, what better way to send out the most popular iPlayer or video on demand programmes than to multicast them to everybody's terminal?

    "Oh yes, don't forget the £700 setup fee and the £30/month for a paltry level of bandwidth allowance."

    Again - this may have been the case ten years ago but is not at all representative of what is available in the UK or internationally. A satellite modem is now about the same price as a Freesat box - they are even available for free with some US services, with speeds of 2 Mbit/s from £18 per month, or 16 Mbit/s from £35 per month and volumes limits of several gigabytes. Not exactly paltry.

  • Comment number 90.

    It's going to happen regardless of who wins the election as it's originated from brussels. Same as road tolls...

  • Comment number 91.

    This whole thing stinks.

    It is not the job of the Government to provide "super fast" broadband to everyone.

    2mb ... "super fast" ... don't make me laugh. 100mbs+ please.

    To make us pay more in taxes to make sure a private company - who makes billions in profit every year - can afford to do the work, is even worse.

    To make all tax returns to be done online before they can be certain that broadband is available to all is a little insane.

    What I also want to know is that when Labour are kicked out in the next election (and that reminds me, why are we WAITING for an election instead of demanding on through a vote of "No confidence"?), if the next government are going to stick with the current government's promises or what?

    Governments should be forced to put in legally binding "contracts" their goals for the next 4 years - budgets should be for the entire 4 years and it should remain fixed for that period. But no, instead they raise and lower taxes (what seems to be at will) and come out with these bird-brained plans left, right and centre and what is worse is that they seem to be made with no public consultation and no expert consultation either.

    It's a disgrace.

  • Comment number 92.

    Lots of interesting views. As I have spent a lot of time looking into this here are some of mine.

    Who and how to pay for broad reaching very expensive connectivity? Tough question... The tax, whether you agree to the principle or not, could help but will be nowhere near enough. The answer will probably be a combination of tax (local and state) local business and premium services. While the goal is common there are many problems preventing us from getting there.

    I live in one of BT's NGA FTTC pilot towns - Basingstoke. A fairly modern town suffering from new town spread. For broadband that means very long lines - which means poor speed and quality.

    A group of us formed a campaign to get better broadband to the town. Members include local business people home workers and a selection of typical families for the area. We all get less than 2M or nothing at all. We all live in fairly large housing estates on the outer edge of suburban sprawl. Not just older estates - but amazingly new estates that are still being built!

    With the help of our MP and local council BT were able to announce the town would be part of the FTTC trial. In theory the problem is solved for the next few years as that does fix the long line problems. BUT now we find BT are mostly rolling this out to areas of the town with reasonable broadband and a competitors cable service. People in our minds less likely to want to switch to the BT service.

    Even though BT are often the last mile monopoly, they are still able to hide behind the statement 'We cannot tell you why and where we will roll out FTTC as that is competitive information'

    We know as a campaign group that we really have a need for good quality broadband but did not know what the rest of the town thought. To get a better feeling for the town as a whole we are in the process of a door to door survey. So far the results are interesting - and will be shared at a meeting with our Council, MP and BT Openreach very soon.

    The demand that we see that drives the desire for faster broadband are

    1) Home working - this is no longer just email.
    2) Access to School/ Education work / online course content
    3) Leisure - Gaming / I-Player / Pay per view services.
    4) Keeping in touch - email / photograph and video sharing /Internet Phone calls

    There are a LOT of people that wanted option 3 - leisure - but they tended not to want to pay for it...

    In response to the repeated argument - you just want this for I-Player -

    - Many companies are getting wise that you can make 'free' phone calls over the internet.
    - Online training - often including video to avoid travel.
    - Access to traditional 'in the office' business systems
    - Rich media web sites - these web site are being designed with the view that everyone has at least 2Mb internet access - and often a lot more than that.

    As a full time home worker these are not things that might happen one day - this is a very common every day way of life.

    To most of us on the campaign super fast broadband is anything over 2Mb. What do our average home workers need to work comfortably from home - well that depends - but 5Mb is probably a comfortable number -10Mb is good number the next few of years and everything possible if HD Video / TV is your thing.

    Locally we are working on what our options are - we do not have the answer yet but I think we are getting close. We will soon know if our town and many like it are doomed to a rapidly increasing isolation from the Digital world and economy.

  • Comment number 93.

    Broadband should be paid for by the people who use it, but it is right for the government to insist that everyone should have access to broadband at the same price, no matter where they stay.

    It is also reasonable and absolutely necessary in a country such as the UK that the broadband service beign offered is of the same quality and speed.

    This helps promote business and benefits the economy as well as providing these services to those who want to use them.

    Countries that do not have universal telephone access sufffer greatly and if the UK does not provide a universal high speed broadband service the UK will continue its downward plunge into oblivion.

  • Comment number 94.

    Mr iwinter,
    Tosh mate-whilst I dont know the Swindon setup, the pings to my ISP gateway via my wireless connection at a constant sub 10ms. And for bandwidth, I'd rather have a 2Mb/secs from 3 miles away on a pole than 512k from an exchange 2 miles away.
    And this fascination with FTTC/FTTH is a solution looking for an application-video, which would be the real need for this, is reducing its bandwidth needs all the time with better and better compression algorthym's.Which then leads to artifacts and all the other problems you get with digital-which means you keep your telly and your broadband seperate.Which we can because we have a mature broadcasting system that is the envy of the world.
    Nuff said

  • Comment number 95.

    There are quite a few urban myths contained within the comments posted to date against this article, mainly relating to the perceived poor quality and high cost of broadband in the UK versus other countries. I thought it would be useful to include some facts (with sources so you can verify the data at your leisure):

    1. Broadband penetration as a % of population - the OECD (June 2009) rates the UK as second only to Korea out of 8 economies with 28.5% penetration (ahead of France, Germany, US, Japan, Spain and Italy);

    2. Broadband prices - Ofcom ranked the UK as cheaper than Germany, Italy, France the US and SPain amongst others;

    3. Overall broadband performance - in September 2008 the EU ranked the UK 4th out of all of its members when assessing a range of factors.

    4. Fibre deployment - according to the OECD, the only major economies with significant fibre deployment are currently Japan and South Korea, both of whom have a primarily urban population and both of whom used significant government funding, tax credits and/or subsidised loans to cover the cost - and bear in mind that, for example, in South Korea the fibre goes to large, shared tenancy buildings so the bandwidth is shared by many.

    5. Broadband availability - over 99% over UK homes can get broadband over fixed lines, better than any other G8 country (and by the way rather high than the availability of mains water and terrestial BBC coverage in the UK).

    6. Community broadband networks could do this better - as has been seen many times over in the UK, US and elsewhere, community groups deploy infrastructure and then struggle to offer an acceptable service level over time, especially if demand changes. Many quietly withdraw, one of many examples being the wi-fi service in Norwich.

    Hopefully the above will give some context to what has already been delivered in the UK and what is really happening elsewhere, rather than what people imagine to be the case.

  • Comment number 96.

    Rory, what about those of us who live in areas not served by BT and therefore are dictated to as to what we can do? I live near Hull and am served by Karroo, but only because NO other ISP in the country will deal with Kingston Communications. I constantly get offers of cheap internet from people like orange and virgin, but check the small print and my STD code is excluded. To be fair the Karroo service is pretty good as I appear to get above average connection compared to others posting here, and no I don't live in the city... However I am on an older "unlimited" but therefore slower connection (up to 8Mbps) as opposed to the newer improved (up to 24Mbps) but limited to 10Gb/month.
    I do feel, however, that an increase in bandwidth is required along with an increase in bandwidth usage as TV is migrating slowly but surely onto the interweb. With HD demanding higher bandwidths for streaming and more people using devices such as the Wii to view TV this increased discussion on which direction "broadband" goes is surely only a good thing. The tax, however, seems punitive to me, what proportion of pensioners use the internet but how many will have a fixed landline? It seems to me that they'll be the ones paying for the improvements for future generations yet again.

  • Comment number 97.

    @ 82. Quexlia:

    While I agree with you about people's expectations of an 8MB/s line, I think you're quite wrong with regards to market forces. Unfortunatly, BT has a near-monopoly on most of the country, and has no reason to upgrade. Virgin mostly inherited its share of the market; it now has a near-monopoly on all cable / fibre networks in the UK.

    For market forces to work, Virgin needs to expand its network coverage across the entire country, to provide a second option. But it already has the most profitable areas covered. BT meanwhile has no reason at all to upgrade anything outside of the Virgin-controlled areas. If you don't live in a cable area, you can't just switch to another provider; you get BT's lines no matter what you choose.

    What we need is either:
    1) government to FORCE BT to invest in new cables and equipment, which will probably involve subsidising this roll-out; the land-line users will end up paying for this somehow, as that's where BT make their money.
    2) wait for Google, or some other massive international corporation to move in and provide fibre to all (and thus gain complete dominance over the entire countries communications infrastructure). And they'll do it, just as soon as enough people are prepared to pay a bit extra. A few towns at first to prove to themselves there's a profit, and then the entire country. Google will provide the search. They'll provide the browser. And they'll provide the connection. It's the next step in their master-plan to control the world(wideweb)!

  • Comment number 98.

    I notice all the 'city' dwellers complaining about paying for us 'rural' folk to receive broadband.... well, us rural folk have been subsidising you for years!

    I live near (not near enough!) an exchange that will likely never be upgraded, and as such I have to pay top dollar on the limited service I get, which is, and I have been told I should think myself lucky, 512k. Because of my exchange, nobody can offer me these 'great' deals you can get, example Sky, I have Sky HD+ with mulitroom, yet, because of my exchange, I can’t get free broadband, while somebody else on the most basic sky package get their broadband for free!

    This have been the case for years now, and while I watch time and time again people being upgraded, getting faster and faster broadband connections, and paying less for it, I am stuck with paying more for a slower service... so tell me, who is paying for a service they won’t receive?

    Bottom line is something needs to be done, which private companies do not want to do, so either do it ourselves, or make them do it for us, either way, we will all pay for it in the end.

  • Comment number 99.

    Cat Wrote:
    It doesn't buy cars for people, or pay the bus fares, and it doesn't hand out free mobiles or give out free groceries in return of tax, so why should it do this.

    How about: Car Scrappage scheme, OAP bus passes, tesco vouchers for drug addicts, ... i cant think of any instances where mobiles are given, but you get my point.

  • Comment number 100.

    Why not just install satellite broadband where its wanted, and let the user pay the going rate?


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