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UK.gov won't drop 50p high speed broadband tax plans - yet

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The government is still mulling the possibility of bringing in a 50p a month stealth tax on fixed phone lines to fund next-gen broadband, despite Treasury minister Stephen Timms hinting that those plans could be shelved during election year.

Uk.gov “remains committed to the timetable for introducing the 50p levy on fixed lines in 2010, as set out in the Digital Britain report,” a Business, Innovation and Skills department spokeswoman told The Register.

“We will be consulting on the 'Final Third' fund in the autumn, but no final decisions have yet been made about the legislative vehicle for introduction of the levy."

News reports emerged over the weekend that claimed Timms would axe the proposed £6 a year tax to pay for high speed broadband that had been put forward in June’s Digital Britain report. It was suggested that such a move might be considered unpopular in a general election year.

The Sunday Times quoted Timms as saying that he couldn’t “definitely” commit to such a levy being legislated prior to the election next year. “I can’t say for sure,” he said.

It’s understood that the tax will be contained in a finance bill that would follow the budget in March 2010.

However, as it will be an election year Timms, who recently replaced Lord Carter - author of the Digital Britain report - told journalists that a short bill listing popular measures was more likely to be pushed through ahead of UK voters going to the polls.

“Things that are contentious will have to be left until afterwards,” he said, according to the Sunday Times.

The Tories are widely expected to oppose the 50p broadband levy being contained in the finance bill. So should they be elected to government next year, the £6 a year tax on fixed phone lines could indeed be ditched.

Meanwhile, the Digital Britain forum has a new blog post up here. ®

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