Unspent switchover cash to fund broadband

By James Welsh

Funds not spent by the BBC on digital switchover will be reallocated to fund the provision of universal broadband service in plans unveiled today by the chancellor.

250m of an 803m fund will go unspent because the takeup of the Digital Switchover Help Scheme, which provides subsidised access to digital TV for older and disabled people on income related benefits, has been lower than expected.

In January, it was suggested that the television licence fee could be reduced as a way for the money to be clawed back. However, in today's Budget statement, Alistair Darling said that talks would commence between the government and the BBC Trust "on how the emerging underspend... can be drawn on to fund universal service and takeup".

Universal broadband access of a minimum 2Mbps speed was a key plank of communications minister Lord Carter's interim Digital Britain report in January.