Feeds

Tories would scrap 50p broadband tax

'As soon as possible'

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

A Conservative government would scrap the planned 50 pence per month tax on every landline - which the current government plans to use to subsidise faster broadband in rural regions - "as soon as possible", according to the shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt.

The levy hasn't yet been implemented but is a cornerstone of the current government's Digital Britain strategy. Ministers estimate it would raise £175m per year fund to pay for fibre in sparsely populated areas which BT believes do not justify a privately-funded network upgrade.

Former technology PR man Hunt said in an interview with the Financial Times today that the tax would be immediately binned after the next election if the Tories win.

BT currently has so far announced plans to improve broadband speeds for 40 per cent of the country by 2012 with a mixture of fibre to the cabinet and fibre to the premises deployments. The investment is targeted at urban areas where the return is likely to be greatest.

Hunt was not quoted as offering an alternative funding mechanism for "the final third" of broadband upgrades, where multiple economic assessments have found there is no case for private investment in rural regions without some form of government intervention. The relevant Conservative spokespeople were not available this morning.

One controversial alternative to subsidies would be to simply accept a new digital divide between town and country, although it would be an unlikely policy from David Cameron's neophile Tory party.

Indeed, in a speech in January, Cameron said a Tory administration would aim for ubiquitous high speed broadband within ten years. He didn't give any substantive details of how this might be achieved, but said his government would facilitate upgrades "by letting it be known that it will encourage and support the private investment required to develop the network".

The incumbent government meanwhile intends that communications providers will collect the levy on its behalf via a surcharge on line rental, so Hunt's plan to scrap it is likely to be privately welcomed by industry.

However Stephen Timms, the minister responsible for delivering the Digital Britain strategy, last month pledged to impose the levy before the next election. Firms could therefore be forced to bear costs of setting up and then within months dismantling a tax collection apparatus if both politicians get their way.

The latest the next election can be held is 3 June 2010, and the Queen's Speech, when Timms plans to introduce the necessary legislation, is on 18 November. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Brit telcos warn Scots that voting Yes could lead to HEFTY bills
BT and Co: Independence vote likely to mean 'increased costs'
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Google+ GOING, GOING ... ? Newbie Gmailers no longer forced into mandatory ID slurp
Mountain View distances itself from lame 'network thingy'
ISPs' post-net-neutrality world is built on 'bribes' says Tim Berners-Lee
Father of the worldwide web is extremely peeved over pay-per-packet-type plans
Vodafone to buy 140 Phones 4u stores from stricken retailer
887 jobs 'preserved' in the process, says administrator PwC
Bonking with Apple has POUNDED mobe operators' wallets
... into submission. Weve squeals, ditches payment plans
Drag queens: Oh, don't be so bitchy, Facebook! Let us use our stage names
Handbags at dawn over free content ad network's ID policy
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.