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THUS warns ‘hole tax’ will slow up broadband Britain

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THUS has warned that a new "hole tax" to be imposed on utilities for digging up roads will slow the pace of broadband roll-out in the UK.

The new measures - designed to make utilities finish their work quickly in a bid to ease disruption - are currently being trialled in Middlesbrough and Camden, London.

Under the trials some companies are charged a daily flat rate for digging up roads to lay cables and carry out maintenance.

Scottish telco, THUS, believes this is flawed and has described the proposal as a "stealth tax on the national telecommunications industry" claiming it would "retard the nationwide availability of broadband access".

THUS claims that had the charges - which could amount to £500 a day - been introduced last year it would have cost utilities in the UK some £1.2 billion.

At THUS the tax would have cost it £5 million last year, the company said.

"We at THUS calculate that if the regulation had been in force last year the cost of installing our equipment would have been 37 per cent higher," said THUS chief exec Bill Allan.

"Many operators will be faced with the choice of not proceeding with parts of their network expansion plans or having to pass some of the additional cost onto their customers.

"This will increase the digital divide that is growing between those who have access to the benefits of broadband and modern IT and those who do not, and runs counter to the Government's own policy of combating social exclusion by rolling out digital
networks nationwide," he said.

The fear is that if these charges are introduced it will make the task of rolling out broadband to remote areas even more commercially unattractive.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Transport Local Government and the Regions (DTLR) said that it was still too early to say whether the charges would be introduced since the measures were still in the early part of a trial.

The Government will make its recommendations once it has received a report on the pilots. ®

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