Rory Cellan-Jones

Will you pay for a Digital Britain?

  • Rory Cellan-Jones
  • 23 Sep 09, 16:38 GMT

Remember all the hullabaloo around Lord Carter's Digital Britain report, the blueprint for the future of everything from fast broadband to Channel 4 to illegal file-sharing?

fifty penceWell, shortly after its publication in June, Stephen Carter headed out of the government and it all seemed to go quiet for a while. There were even rumours that much of the report would never result in legislative action - but now the various rows which attended its publication are bubbling up again.

This morning, the Digital Minister Stephen Timms confirmed that one of the most controversial measures would go ahead:a 50p per month tax on landlines to fund superfast broadband. There had been speculation that it would be shelved because of a convention that any tax introduced shortly before an election should have cross-party support, but Mr Timms said the broadband levy would be in a Finance Bill before Christmas.

Cue another row. The government may have seen this as a sensible way of pump-priming investment in the fibre-optic network that many believe is vital to Britain's economic future - but it seems nobody is satisfied.

The lobby which believes we're already way behind our overseas rivals in building fast broadband says the money is too little too late. But just about everybody else - including the Conservatives - seems to believe that it will be an unjust tax, hitting elderly people who may have no interest in broadband and poorer people who will pay the same as the rich.

When I asked my fellow social network users for a few comments, they were mostly hostile:

"It's a damned awful idea - nationalising the internet, by the back door!!"
"so if we agree to the 50p broadband 'tax' it's ok to download what we want then? Otherwise its not a tax, it's a price rise."
"seems unfair that my 86 year old nana is taxed further for something she doesn't use, but needs a fixed line in her home"
"tell them it's a [minced oath deleted] joke, I pay the same tax on a crappy rural 2Mb link as someone with fantastic 10-50Mb. thieves..."

I tried to point out to this last correspondent that he was missing the point - in fact, those of us in towns with fast broadband connections will effectively be subsidising him if he ends up getting fibre optic cables laid to his door.

But it's clear that this tax is going to be a hard sell - after all, the public will start paying for a fast network some time before it's delivered to homes across the country, and will be cynical about whether the money will really be spent where it's needed.

Mind you, amid the rage about the telephone tax, its critics also need to address some questions. Do you believe that it is vital for the UK to build a next-generation broadband network? Are you confident that the market alone will deliver that? If not, how do you propose that we fund it?

Elton JohnAnd now there's another row brewing about Digital Britain after Lord Mandelson's decision last month to insert into the consultation process tougher measures against illegal file-sharers, notably plans to disconnect repeat offenders. That plan also received a pretty hostile reception but I gather that the business secretary has been cheered in recent days by the support of artists like Lily Allen, James Blunt and Elton John for his proposals.

Tomorrow, Lord Mandelson is expected to visit the Brit School for the Performing Arts in Croydon to press home his message about the importance of defending the creative industries from file-sharing - though it's not clear whether Lily, James and Elton will form an impromptu backing trio. And there'll be a rival gig in the evening when the Featured Artists Coalition - which represents musicians who want to have more control over their work - meets to hammer out a position on file-sharing.

So far, FAC members like Billy Bragg, Blur's Dave Rowntree of Blur and Radiohead's Ed O'Brien have been pretty sceptical about whether draconian action will work. So prepare for a battle of the bands.


  • Comment number 1.

    If the Government was truly serious about sorting out the "digital divide" then it would be doing more to ensure that there is competition in the broadband market in ALL areas, instead of only the densely populated ones.

    I see BT is upgrading many exchanges to its new 21CN - why has the Government not insisted that they do this in areas which currently do not have access to anything more than ADSL Max? The areas which BT has chosen seem to already have access to ADSL2+ from other providers, so will gain nothing from this move.

  • Comment number 2.

    As it happens, I'm not particularly opposed to "nationalising the internet" in the sense that what we are talking about here is infrastructure – infrastructure we badly need.

    I believe we require a fibre-based national network offering universal service, and that means one network, where extremely high-traffic and profitable routes subsidise expensive and difficult rural paths. That is impossible to do if you let individual companies cream off those profitable paths first. And as this is new infrastructure, there is virtually the entire new network to build (we aren't simply patching bots on to an existing structure) so a unified single national network is entirely practical conceptually.

    Such a network infrastructure would ideally be non-profit and publicly owned in my view, and no, I do not mind paying for it. And come now, 50p a month isn't enough to buy a cup of coffee. Unfortunately it's probably not enough to buy a high-speed fibre-optic network either.

    However, whether or not taxing landlines is the way to raise the money is another question.

    Ideally a future 60Mb/s or so universal national network would be able to carry a whole slew of things that we currently use other means for (such as broadcasting and all kinds of communications) and would be backed and infilled by a WiMax-style high-power wireless network for mobile, remote and portable access. We addressed this in the Cambridge contribution to the Digital Britain Unconferences Report, p16 ( As a result the infrastructure would in fact be used by everyone, and it might be more appropriate to pay for it via general taxation (adding a very small amount per capita) than by charging landline-holders.

  • Comment number 3.

    Yes. Yes I will pay, happily. It's time for the idealistic view of a tax-free expansion of access and speed to be forgotten.

    It would be perfect for the web to exist in the beautiful spirit it was created, and I do believe alternatives to the tax are possible - but the tax *will* raise cash. If it is spent correctly, under the control of those who know where it would be best spent, the outcomes can only be good.

    However, the fixed cost of it is a problem, I think. Further thought is required to make it fair for all. If you pay for 50Mbps or more, should you be taxed more to improve access for the 512kbps rural users? Should those with poor connections, or those that don't use the web, be charged at all? Things like this need to be considered further before it happens.

  • Comment number 4.

    This is entirely bogus. Labour want to set up a false dividing line between them and the Tories. They know the opposition parties will vote against the 50p tax and that it will hence run out of parliamentary time. They will then blame the Tories for failing to extend broadband coverage. The tax was always a non-starter.

    Stephen Carter's legacy from his time in Government will be...precisely nothing. EPIC FAIL.

  • Comment number 5.

    People who are angry at the tax should remember that one could pay 3 times this much simply for a bottle of water. I only hope that this tax is enough to pay for the infrastructure that Britain needs. If not, perhaps it should be raised for people who actually have broadband?

  • Comment number 6.

    One possible source for this idea can be found here : [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    I know it was naive but it was intended for all broadband connections -fixed and mobile with the gov putting all the spectrum fees in the same fund (£237m in 07/08) with industry putting some of its Corporate giving in the same programme. Funds would also be contributed dept of health and home office to deliver to public service delivery goals.

    We need investment. The 50p as it is, looks peculiar but it remains a start.

    Given the forthcoming election perhaps the Tories or Liberals would offer to re-invest the spectrum fees back in the UK Data Transport Infrastructure.

    Better still , perhaps we could extract a further promise that any spectrum fees raised from the next auction heist (Ofcoms top priority for 09/10) could be re-invested in our national infrastructure.

  • Comment number 7.

    They seem caught up in the "must show how it will be paid for" approach to politics. But then this is such a bizarre way to raise the money.

    Why not either (a) paid from general tax revenues or (b) paid for by broadband users.

    The current approach clearly taxes people who have chosen not to have broadband and therefore can be assumed to have little interest (therefore probably a high proportion of pensioners who can't afford the tax), or even those who can't get broadband, adding insult to injury.

    And cutting people off for file sharing? Grrrr. Mandelson The Unelected. Labour have been a tail wagged by the business contributors to their party funds for far too long. No government that has been paying attention to the wishes of the people, as expressed in any debate I have seen, would have done this. What the majority of people clearly want is to have the outmoded entertainment "industry" made to face the fact that tehir busniess model has had it's day - the days are gone when you could get rich selling copies of other peoples' work and controlling who does and who does not get heard by the customers.

    The internet is a major opportunity for the arts - if it can get these dinosaurs out of the way. The problem is, they have made a lot of money from their past activities and are prepared to spend it lavishly to protect their interests, which are at odds with the interests of everyone else including the artists themselves - or at least all but a few who are already established with "the industry".

    It shows the danger of having unelected people in high office designed for the democratically elected - a major flaw in our system of government that needs to be fixed. That Brown gave Mandelson a peerage so that he could get him into the cabinet is IMO enough reason to vote them out asap.

    The electorate should cry foul on all of this very loudly. I hope to see the other parties give a commitment to reverse this if it makes it into law before the election. They have after al defied convention once again and brought in law close to ageneral election without cross-party support. Shame.

  • Comment number 8.

    Absolutely right. It's not a broadband tax, it's a telephone tax. Much like the TV license it's already an outdated idea that stretches far beyond its means. At the very least they should curtail it to those with actual broadband connections. If they have to implement it, why not implement a staged system relevant to the broadband speeds you're actually getting? Or is that too techy for the digital minister to understand?

  • Comment number 9.

    I'm sure my parents will be ecstatic at having to fork out another £6 in tax from their meagre pensions.
    They don't have & don't want a PC or broadband, so I fail to see why they should be forced to subsidise someone else's increased pornography download speed.

  • Comment number 10.

    Surely I'm already paying a tax on my telephone line? The last time I checked my bill it was called VAT !
    I live in a moderately small town and BT provides my phone and broadband,I pay the same fee as everyone else yet receive a slow broadband service due to distance from exchange and cable quality. Broadband costs should be related to speed and I don't see why I have to pay even more cost for an improved service I may not even get the benefit of.

  • Comment number 11.

    My landline is paid for by Virgin Media. They already take that money and use it to roll out high speed networks. Will I be taxed too, so people who choose to use a BT-based internet provider can have a better network?

  • Comment number 12.

    I worry about the whole broadband roll-out from the political point of view.

    This government, like all before it, loves putting their stamp on something, and the whole importance of broadband connectivity is nothing about enabling communication around the country but rather about being able to say "The Government did that!"

    Added to that, I cant even begin to work out the Carbon Cost of the additional energy used to power an ever faster and faster still web. Though all three major parties are committed to cutting CO2.

    I don't begrudge anyone wanting to have a high speed connection, but the political emphasis behind this (from all parties) all is just plain opportunist rubbish.

  • Comment number 13.

    I don't really care about the cost, but think it is a bit silly to add another tax just to fund some program. Pay for it out of general taxation if it is worth doing, adding lots of small little taxes here there and everywhere to support individual programs is not sustainable and creates unnecessary administration costs and complexity. Alternately they could have just instructed BT to get the infrastructure in place and OFCOM to allow BT to increase wholesale prices to cover the costs.

  • Comment number 14.

    Will the ISPs who are getting the £6 a user carrot to upgrade everyone to 2Mbit/s also face a stick to make sure the money is spent where it should be?

    I suggest everyone on sub 2Mbit/s pays pro-rata for their broadband until its upgraded. So if you're on 512kbit/s then you'll pay 25% of the standard rate for broadband.

    If the ISPs faced losing revenue like this I'd bet the upgrades would go much quicker.

  • Comment number 15.

    I am paying for Digital Britain. I pay £25 per month for my broadband access.

    Anymore is daylight robbery.

  • Comment number 16.

    i think its wrong for this so called tax we will never see any difference in the broadband we already have its just another way for the goverment to make money.

  • Comment number 17.

    I think this is a shocking idea. It discriminates against those who CHOOSE to have landlines, and will probably affect most of the older people in the UK. For example, my parents live in the country, are aged 80 and have a landline. They have no interest in super-fast broadband or mobile phones (which do not work effectively in their area). This is another example of doing things on the cheap, when a sensible solution would be to do some advanced planning, work out the projected costs and then fund through general taxation - instead of using our taxes to fund MP's election campaigns and expenses. The problem is, we won't have any say in the matter because it looks like this will be forced through before the election, then the excuse will be "Oh, it takes too long to get this undone and re-imburse everyone".

  • Comment number 18.

    My mother is 89, widowed, blind and almost housebound. She wouldn't know a broadband router if it jumped up, bit her on the nose and said "Hallo cheeky!". But her landline is a vital lifeline to her distant family and the wider world. Taxing her pension to provide faster broadband for others is just absurd.

  • Comment number 19.

    Why are we expected to fund BT's rollout of 21CN ? Last time I looked they were a private company. Are we expected to fund the other broadband companies too ? This will end up like car tax, do we see all car tax revenues spent on the roads ? Nope. Will all 50p taxes be spent on broadband Britain ? Nope.

  • Comment number 20.

    I already pay for it. I have a fixed land line on which I pay VAT, I have an internet connection on which I pay VAT. I have an Android G1 and pay more for an internet tariff, on which I pay VAT.

    But now the government wants me to pay MORE tax to subsidise private companies installation of better networks.

    My parents, both in their 80s, have a fixed land line on which they pay VAT. They have no desire to have an internet connection, and yet they too will be expect to find another 50p a month, to pay for what exactly?

    Frankly we all know that any money the government gets will just get swallowed up by the government and end up paying for more consultancy and spin doctors and so on.

  • Comment number 21.

    As I understand it, this is to be a compulsory tax created to fund the development of a privately-owned infrastructure, which will be used to raise further revenue for that private company.

    Why not let BT finance their own development, and charge users according to the quality of service they actually provide (speaking as someone who is only getting 0.25 Mb/s) ?

  • Comment number 22.

    Whats the difference between The Sheriff of Nottingham and Gordon Brown..?
    Erm, I can't see one...

    We pay enough, my mother doesn't have the internet and doesn't want it, why is the government making her pay? Its got nothing to do with the internet or getting people online, just how gullible do they think we are?
    Expect a huge rise in mobile networking, and a lot less people having landlines.
    Its not the money, its the principle.

  • Comment number 23.

    This is just a tax on Learning and Information!

    Is this leading the way to a tax on books and newspapers as well?

  • Comment number 24.

    This does seem rather bonkers. As already noted, pensioners, the less well-off and those who just have no interest will be taxed.

    Meanwhile those of us already enjoying a half-decent service via the cable network don't even need a landline and can therefore easily avoid this tax should we so desire.

  • Comment number 25.

    While it is perhaps reasonable to tax those using the internet taxing fixed lines is not the same thing andis unacceptable. Many of the elderly rely on their fixed lines but never use the internet. Meanwhile use of the internet from mobile phones is becoming much more frequent. If you are going to tax it, make it free for the over 70s

  • Comment number 26.

    Is this not just taking money off people to provide an infrastructure that BT could have delivered if they hand't just pocketed all the money?

    Certain other countries in the euro zone are delivering 100mb fiber to peoples front doors , in Canada I lived in the middle of nowhere and could get an 8mb connection back in 2004 something rare in most of the Uk. Yet again the government talks the talk about "digital britian" but can't walk the walk.

  • Comment number 27.

    I see no reason for an extra tax.

    Compared to what was wasted on the banking industry, the cost of this is a drop in the ocean.

  • Comment number 28.

    Once again the British public are bailing out a private company. Why should we the public bail BT out. This is where the privatisation of utilities falls on its backside. They have to satisfy their shareholders, not the population as a whole. Although I think BT's shareholders are finding there are no coffers left for dividends due to poor management.
    These days Labour = big business. Unfortunately, the Tories will win the next election by the biggest landslide in UK history. Labour have lost connection with the British public.

  • Comment number 29.

    Here's one of those times when we should regret allowing the privatisation of BT. Did it not have to earn a profit for its shareholders we could have had a world class internet.
    To expect everyone with a landline to subsidise BTs upgrading of its infrastructure is wrong. This will unfairly penalise many people who rely on their landline but don't want or need the internet.
    Another unpopular tax from an unpopular Labour party.

  • Comment number 30.

    I also forgot, wasnt it BT that intercepted the internet communication of thousands of its customers in 2006/7 so that it could trial a system that would profit from its users browsing. No one at BT has yet to be prosecuted for breaking several UK laws, and Governement departments that are supposed to enforce these laws are burying their heads. Its the EU ironically that are supposedly bring the governement and BT to book, about this little gem. Also who's a non executive director on the BT board, would it be labour MP? and they want to give more of my hard earned cash to BT!

  • Comment number 31.

    This is quite amusing, viewed from here. When I open a window, I can hear the M25, so hardly rural. There is no mobile coverage so I have to have a landline. There is no cable, so it has to be BT for the last part. There isn't an exchange near enough, so I can only get a half meg ADSL when the wind is in the right direction, which costs me £30 a month. Will I pay 50p a month premium to get optical fibre? - you bet! Please, can I also volunteer another 50p a month on my electricity bill to have a gas supply to the house? We have maybe a dozen power cuts a year, many lasting all day, it would be nice to be able to make a cup of tea. Or am I expecting too much of modern technology?

  • Comment number 32.

    "Will you pay for a Digital Britain?"

    We don't have a choice. But the 50p tax is a drop in the ocean, it will only bring in about £175million. Far more is needed to bring our network up to anywhere near the standards of the likes of the far east, South Korea for example.

    And the 50p from this tax won't be spent how it should be.

    Also as a person without a home broadband connection (I use mobile broadband although I'm starting to think I should be using a fixed line) I don't see why I should pay a tax when I don't even have a fixed line broadband package.

    Oh and you can bet that 50p will be where it starts at, with year on year increases in that figure.

    I for one don't see why, when BT have underinvested in the infrastructure for decades, any of us ordinary citizens should be paying for the improvements needed.

    Force BT to cough up the money, force their fat cat directors and shareholders to put their money back into the system rather than living into luxury, stop forcing the ordinary person to fix what the wealthy have broken.

  • Comment number 33.

    Does noone proof read:

    Blur's Dave Rowntree of Blur

    Also, it's only 50p a month. People spend so much money on things they don't need that they really look like hypocrites when they complain on the smallest of taxes

  • Comment number 34.

    why are people talking about 100% availability of broadband when there are still properties in this country without electricity?

  • Comment number 35.

    It's an excellent idea. Once it's available the service will be completely free, because *we* will have paid for it. I mean, it's bound to be free, otherwise the whole thing would be a complete scam - and the government would *never* engage in scams.

  • Comment number 36.

    Firstly, the BBC are asking "Will you pay for Digital Britain"; considering this is a compulsory tax on all owners of a land-line, it's pretty much a non-question

    To commenter #33:
    "Also, it's only 50p a month. People spend so much money on things they don't need that they really look like hypocrites when they complain on the smallest of taxes"

    Does that mean that we should roll over and take it; open the door for the government to take a little here, a little there and not question it?! Not that we have any choice in this of course, where as if I choose to buy a chocolate bar each month, that's exactly what it is - MY CHOICE so no, I don't think we're being hypocritical.

    If you're happy to subsidise a PRIVATELY OWNED company who should have nailed this YEARS ago then fine but count me out. My 30 day notice to cancel my landline was put in this morning - I have 20mb cable so can use Skype to call my friends or an instant messenger.

    Digital Britain is already 10 years or more behind other countries like Sweden.

    Perhaps if we were enjoying 100mb links all over the UK now, I would be a little happier to pay the 50p per month extra to fund an increase to 200mb or 500mb so GB could be a true world-leader. Unfortunately, we're just paying to catch up.

    This is disgusting, a rushed plan with no guarantee that the money raised by this general taxation will go where it is meant to (as someone else mentioned with the car-tax).

    Oh and well done BBC for listening to the posts in the "Can a laptop change the world" blog asking to be able to discuss this.

  • Comment number 37.

    So we're being asked to pay an extra 50p a month to fund the rollout of superfast broadband; will the powers that be guarantee that they'll remove the tax again once rollout is complete?

  • Comment number 38.

    I already contribute above my share by being an early adopter, and hence help to drive the industry forward (an industry which, I might add, is a competitive one with large profits to be made). Being an early adopter means paying higher prices, as the prices tend to come down over time - a 16Mbit line today is far, far cheaper than 5 years ago.

    Plus in order to get my internet connection I am also forced to pay 'line rental' for a telephone line which I do not use for telephone calls. Now they want me to pay an extra 50p on top to help these corporations reach a wider market? Can I claim Gift Aid on that too?!

  • Comment number 39.

    Sorry- Billy Bragg, Blur and Radiohead- 3 very talented and exciting bands and artists on one side.

    Lily Allen, James Blunt and Elton John on the other- 2 of the most hated artists in the country and a washed up has been who hasn't recorded anything of note since about 1979.

    And people wonder why more people are coming down on the naughty side???

  • Comment number 40.

    The 50p tax will never end there. Its just another way for government to introduce a stealth tax on something that everyone and every business will eventually have and use. Just like fuel tax, it'll never end.

    Just like other taxes the majority of the money won't end up where its meant to go.

    Tax payers should not be forced in to paying for private infrastructure upgrades.

  • Comment number 41.

    I can see more landlines getting cancelled with this new tax.

    How long will it be until Labour tax the air we breath?

  • Comment number 42.

    Perhaps the government should simply change the business rates on fibre optics so that they aren't already providing a multi-million dollar subsidy to BT over other operators straight off.

    Along with this perhaps removing some regulations so that Ofcom, yes those guys who are supposedly interested in communications, can't attach conditions to works powers (all operators need these in order to dig) such as having to build additional ducting for electricity network replacement.

    This is Ofcom's idea of how to support competition, making small businesses that are trying to build these networks pay for electricity cabling, and totally ignoring that BT pay less tax than these operators.

    Private companies want to build these networks in at least parts of the UK, it's just not profitable for them to do so due to business rates, the pain of building infrastructure in the UK, and the way Ofcom have managed to distort the UK market towards one of poor quality services delivered at the lowest possible cost for the lowest possible cost or services which are being heavily subsidised by other products.

    The best thing we can do is get rid of Ofcom and replace them with a body that actually has a clue about 'Digital Britain' and the kinds of investment that are needed and will push this forward to the government rather than one that engages in back slapping as we have hundreds of providers offering essentially the same services over the same copper wires and subject to the same restrictions.

    We really, really should be building true fully fibre networks in major cities right now but we aren't because the government has no clue nor care beyond cost savings through forcing people to use government services online, the regulator is a bunch of incompetent Labourites with no clue about this industry but who want to preserve the status quo as it sounds good with low prices and even lower levels of service, and local governments have no direction nor idea and choose BT virtually every time even when their solution is short-term all-copper or more expensive over smaller companies offering 21st century infrastructure.

    We need a total refresh from local government level right through to the top. Stephen Carter is now mercifully gone though he was nothing more than a PR guy pretending to have a clue about telecomms, Ed Richards will hopefully soon get to persue his career in politics he longs for so much as Ofcom will be wiped out, we've a chance that Europe will push back on the UK Government and stop this business rates subsidy on fibre optics to BT, and maybe even local governments will be encouraged to take more responsibility for their constituents and allow operators to put the fibre optics into the ground without jumping through hoops.

    Of course I am probably in dream world. I just think that if you remove the barriers to private investment and empower and educate local governments towards finding the solutions that suit their constituents best good things will happen rather than the typical Labour 'Central government knows best' approach which will almost certainly end up heavily favouring BT and/or Virgin Media.

    That is also means not taxing people in London to upgrade people in Scotland to 50Mbit is merely a bonus. The South-East bears quite enough of the tax burden in the UK and sees relatively little enough of the benefits already.

  • Comment number 43.

    Seems to me there are two questions, firstly do you believe in publicly subsidising high speed broadband to the 1/3rd (?) of the country that won't get it through the usual competitive private investment, if so then secondly how do you pay for it.

    If it comes from income tax, VAT, a phone line levy, council tax, whatever we still get to pay it - so is it the subsidy we don't like or the detail of the funding mechanism ?

  • Comment number 44.

    This is truly and outrage!

    a) Why don't the companies providing the broadband pay for the lines they lay? Virgin (formerly NTL / Telewest) is doing this...
    This already creates an unfair environment that favours the BT, a company that made £2.5b profit in 2008, I might add!

    b) Remote areas are exactly that: remote. If you live in a beautiful (or maybe less beautiful) place in the countryside, you should bloody well pay for the privilege of getting the 21st century out there. Is there an electricity tax because some houses in remote places don't have electricity? What about water and other such commodities? It's simply that people in remote places aren't willing to upgrade... If they really wanted to, they could (but admittedly would have to pay more for someone that lives in London)! Again, to highlight the hypocrisy: I live in London and my cost of living and transport is that much higher - is the government taxing other areas heavier to make sure that everyone pays equally?

    c) If this is such an important thing, why not use the money they already get from us? We pay quite a bit of tax already, but raise the tax by 0.00001% and I certainly wouldn't mind. An additional charge infringes with my consumer rights: I shouldn't be double charged for one service / product. For the same reason I don't have Television - I refuse to pay that BS tax! I rather NOT have a service than pay a second time for it to someone that does NOTHING to maintain the service or provides an additional service that I rather not pay for.

    In short, the best things to do in response to this are:
    1. Write to BT, inform them that you will immediately leave them should they impose the tax on you
    2. Write to Stephen Timms, the [horrible swearword] that is pushing forward with this programme. Contact here:
    3. Indeed cancel your BT contract with immediate effect (once the tax goes through), thus freeing you from the burden of an inflated bill and use your mobile and get a USB internet connection.
    4. Write to other MPs that are opposing the planned tax.

  • Comment number 45.

    "Tax payers should not be forced in to paying for private infrastructure upgrades."

    100% Correct. If I recall, it used to be a public company until it was sold off to make the Government at the time (Labour by any chance?) a quick buck. Now it's coming back to bite them on their backside so what do they do? Grow a pair and tell them to get their short arms into their long pockets?

    No. They tell us (who are already paying VAT on the line rental) to fork out even more!

    A tax pushed through with no consultation of the voters.
    Democracy? Don't make me laugh.

  • Comment number 46.

    The village I live in is unlikely to see any benefit from BT's 21CN project and we are going to have to wait for VDSL to be rolled out to TPON areas.

    BT have COMPLETELY stonewalled the question of what they are planning to do for areas like ours, where the line length between the street cabinets and the exchange is almost at the limit of being able to provide a 2Mbit service to everyone over a copper-based solution.

    Is that 10p tax going to help us? Of course not. It'll go to fund super-fast broadband in the cities, and once all the commercially viable areas have been looked after, MAYBE we'll get the crumbs off their table in five years' time.

    So, here's a much better AND CHEAPER idea for Stephen Timms:

    We know our village could partner up with a local company, to install and operate a community microwave broadband solution offering 16mbps broadband service to anyone who needs it (which could offer >50mbit broadband with minimal investment, in a couple of years' time).

    The projected cost to us to get this up and running, doesn't even run into five figures.

    We'd much rather have a grant to get that project up and running NOW, than twiddle our thumbs for a few years paying the 10p tax for the substandard infrastructure we have now so we can subsidise BT for giving places like Ebbsfleet and its brownfield trial sites in North London a better broadband service than they already have (even though their services are way better than ours).

    We KNOW there's no point holding our breath for the roll out of a network that's ALREADY out of date in technology terms. We KNOW it will be even more out of date when (if) it ever gets to reach places like ours. And we KNOW we'll be left till last by the major players.

    So come on, Mr Timms. Show a bit of backbone. If BT and Virgin show no interest in upgrading the infrastructure in places like ours, for God's sake don't BRIBE them into doing it because it's a waste of cash.

    Give community broadband projects the money and they'll show you how to do a proper, more future-proofed job in a fraction of the time, and at a fraction of the expense.

  • Comment number 47.

    Britain has been significantly behind the times in the development of the internet for years, and let's be serious about the cost here. BT line rental is already £135 yearly, based on their cheaper options. Is another £6 going to cripple anyone who is paying that? Honestly, BT could simply raise their prices by a pound a month and there would be less upset than there has been about this. Why? Price hikes with no benefit for the end user are waved by with "c'est la vie"s and "in my day"s but no serious opposition, but a tax which might help bring us up to speed (and believe me, parts of the world, especially in Asia are racing ahead of us to a degree which is, frankly, embarrassing) is an outrage.

    50p a month won't break anyone's back, but the way it adds up may make a significant difference to Britain's digital future.

  • Comment number 48.

    In the same way we already pay a TV tax, even if we don't watch BBC, people are now going to be expected to pay a telephone tax even if they don't want the internet. Another crazy idea from a government way past its sell-buy date.

  • Comment number 49.

    I live in a rural area with low/no broadband (reach problems) and no mobile coverage of any sort.

    The £6per annum tax isn't to provide the 2 Mbit/s connection - it's for higher speed "Next Generation" broadband.

    This money will be used, as I understand it, to pay for the Final Third Project, which will provide Next Generation Broadband, through fixed or mobile services, to homes and business by 2017. However this Final Third Project will only cover 90% of that disadvantaged final third!

    Am I to understand that those of us who live in the 10% that will not benefit from the works to be covered through the Next Generation Fund will be exempt from the £6 per annum charge?

  • Comment number 50.

    So here I am on a pension of less than 100 quid a week and I will have to pay for telecoms giants to make more money. Why hasn't BT done more to upgrade the infrastructure that was stolen from the people by Thatcher and her boot boys? Grrrrrrrr!

  • Comment number 51.

    At this moment in time i would refuse to pay such a tax. I've recently changed ISP from BT, to TalkTalk, and i'm still only getting download speeds up to 70kb at best from a 2meg line (it was only 20kb with BT!!!) If the speeds were to be improved, then i'd be happy to pay it, but not until something has been done. I accdept that because i live approx 2-3 miles from the exchange that my speeds will be slower, but those are dial up speeds, not broadband!!! I also feel it is unfair that people who have no use of broadband would be charged. Thats like asking people who have a salad at a resteraunt to fork out part of the bill for someone else's 15oz steak!!!

  • Comment number 52.

    "those of us in towns with fast broadband connections will effectively be subsidising him"
    Rory, those of us who live in rural areas are used to subsidising urban residents, through local rates etc as we pay the same as townies for things we don't/won't ever get.. like street lights, gritting, recycling service (the bin trucks won't come down little lanes), sewerage, policing, and reasonable access to almost any facility you care to think of. It's about time we had a bit back. Ponder that next time you go for a walk in the country, to a nice country pub, or go to a farmers market...the countryside provides services too. But I can't see us getting fibre ever, without putting our own in, ...third class wireless maybe in a decade or so....

  • Comment number 53.

    It seems those who don't care about the loss of big music are those who are talented enough to be able to go it alone, whilst those complaining are mostly those who are utterly talentless, and depend on the far reaching arms of the music industry to fiddle charts and force their rubbish in our face.

    What's wrong Lily, worried about having to work for a living? Daddy's contacts not going to be able to help you have a free ride in life anymore? Is that a violin I hear playing in the background?

    But of course the more amusing point is the belief that any anti-piracy measures will have any effect. Even if the internet was shut down tommorrow people will rip and copy CDs for each other like they always used to before the rise of the MP3, or they'll copy tapes as they did prior to even that, and, well, before that the music industry as it is now didn't really exist anyway. It didn't stop musical talent doing well though, so the loss of the music industry to piracy would be a positive thing for culture at least. For sure, Beethoven didn't need copyright and a big music industry.

    This is of course, the same Lily who has been making use of Twitter, free blogging services, MySpace and other web 2.0 ideas that costs her not a single penny, and that have to make up their revenue through new methods whilst providing the service. Ironic really isn't it? It just shows what hypocrits artists like her are. How about it Lily, if you really back the pay for everything stance, will you be reimbursing Twitter et al. for all their bandwidth that you've used, and the development time that went into Twitter etc.?

    I thought not.

  • Comment number 54.

    So, will we, the tax payers, own the network built through tax revenues ?

    If not, why not ?

  • Comment number 55.

    Will you pay for a Digital Britain?

    Maybe not!

    See this:

    It is the first subscription free device to provide access to great Catch Up TV, TV HD, VOD, including BBC iPlayer, direct to your television.

    What's your opinion?!

  • Comment number 56.

    "45. At 10:59am on 24 Sep 2009, badger_fruit wrote:

    "Tax payers should not be forced in to paying for private infrastructure upgrades."

    100% Correct. If I recall, it used to be a public company until it was sold off to make the Government at the time (Labour by any chance?) a quick buck. "

    Nope it was the conservatives under Mrs Thatcher that sold this country off to private companies. And we've been paying the price ever since.

  • Comment number 57.

    In principle why as a nation shouldn't we invest in this?. We can't continue for much longer pushing more and more data through our antiquated telephone exchanges. Increasingly rural communities rather than being better connected through the internet are getting even more isolated, businesses and individuals are struggling to take advantage of cloud computing, broadband streaming and television whilst nations such as South Korea are already a generation ahead in communications infastructure.

    Lets not assume either that we will be making little old ladies pay for something they won't and can't use. My 86 year old grandmother has only recently started "surfing the web" and using email to keep i touch with her family around the word.

    However, a flat 50p levy is wrong for a number of reasons. Typically of New Labour its too little, too late and inequitable. We should have been investing in this technology 10 years ago financed through our tax system when the money was readily available. We need to have a proper debate as to how we will pay for the necessary investment needed rather than this rushed an half baked idea.

  • Comment number 58.

    "57. At 02:07am on 25 Sep 2009, screamingman wrote:

    In principle why as a nation shouldn't we invest in this?. We can't continue for much longer pushing more and more data through our antiquated telephone exchanges. Increasingly rural communities rather than being better connected through the internet are getting even more isolated, businesses and individuals are struggling to take advantage of cloud computing, broadband streaming and television whilst nations such as South Korea are already a generation ahead in communications infastructure.

    Lets not assume either that we will be making little old ladies pay for something they won't and can't use. My 86 year old grandmother has only recently started "surfing the web" and using email to keep i touch with her family around the word.

    However, a flat 50p levy is wrong for a number of reasons. Typically of New Labour its too little, too late and inequitable. We should have been investing in this technology 10 years ago financed through our tax system when the money was readily available. We need to have a proper debate as to how we will pay for the necessary investment needed rather than this rushed an half baked idea."

    Why should we pay for it.

    I see no reason why BT should not be legally forced to cough up the money it's been giving to it's shareholders and CEOs instead of investing said money in the infrastructure.

    BT are the ones that have held us back, along with our government, they should be the ones paying to bring us forward.

    BT make a huge profit and very little of it appears to be ploughed back into the system.

    As a low paid worker I am sick and tired of being told that I have to pay more to get this country moving forward when those at the top have been slowly destroying it in the name of profit. Taxes don't hurt the wealthy as much as they do the not-so-wealthy.

  • Comment number 59.

    50p per month for fibre? Bargain. Unfortunately, it does seem too little too late. First, I doubt that 50p per month will be enough, considering the amount of work it'd take to lay the fiber on a national scale. Secondly, this roll-out should have started 4 or 5 years ago, when youtube was launched, it's not the sort of thing that gets done overnight.

    Now for the really bad news; the rest of the world isn't going to stand still on the issue, they don't all have a broken privatisation model wereby 1 company (BT) has a complete monopoly on all land lines, and another (virgin) has a complete monopoly on all cable. There's the real problem - a privatised model without competition, to force prices down and service up.

    With this in mind, it's starting to look inevitable that Britain's telecoms infrastructure is going to be looking 3rd world by 2012, just in time for the olympics for all the world to see. Just don't mention the power cuts we're going to have thanks to private industry not building a new nuclear plant in the last 20 years. But hey, at least we have a water supply... oh wait, water shortages every year. damn. And a broken financial system. This country's on its last legs, time for a ticket out of here... gonna have to start learning swedish i guess.

  • Comment number 60.

    It makes you wonder why no one is asking what pricing structure is being used in the countries that are much further ahead of us are using.

    How do people from Sweden pay for their broadband? And the French, Dutch Danish, Italian, Norwegian - I bet this comes from a more forward looking "can-do" rather than a conservative (with a small c) "can't pay" attitude.

    it sickens me that we still consider ourselves to be a world power.

  • Comment number 61.

    I for one will surrender by fixed-line if they bring in this tax.
    We already pay a line-rental charge.
    I pay my BT bill by Electronic Funds Transfer and yet they still charge me £4.50 per quarter "cash handling" charge, so this will just be the straw that broke BT's back.
    I will use my mobile and a Broadband Dongle.


  • Comment number 62.

    This is just another back door tax , unfair , and an erosion of our civil liberties . We already pay for our broadband through our prrovider .Yet again , under the guise of "improving services " this Govt . is taxing the overburdened taxpayer and those who cannot afford to pay .

  • Comment number 63.

    I'll pay - if the higher data speeds are not compromised by ISP filtering. Set a single maximum rate for all types of traffic, and be done with it.

  • Comment number 64.

    This Tax is wrong.

    If people want 20Meg Broadband they should move to a Cable TV area.

    If people want a Tube Train service move to London

    If people want peace and quiet and open spaces fine, just don't expect urban services.

    The broadband speed in a locality is just another factor of living in a given place.


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