UK threatened with Broadband tax

Chris Forrester

British homes and businesses might have to pay a 6 ($9) a year levy on every phone line that they have installed under the UK government's plans for a "Digital Britain". The tax will apply to everyone, including the elderly as well as fax and other landlines. The tax is designed to raise 1.5bn. The proposals were contained in a White Paper introduced June 16 by the unelected Baron Carter of Barnes. The concept might well run into a number of brick walls.

The White Paper received plenty of criticism, as lacking in thinking by one commentator, and being "muddled" and "mired in management speak" by another. Media consultancy Ovum described it as "a poverty of ambition".

The report's first hurdle is to get it passed by a parliament that's already counting down the weeks to a General Election. A taste of what's to come came from the Opposition (Conservative) Culture & Media minister, Jeremy Hunt, who summed up his party's opinion by saying: "The cable revolution happened without a cable task. The satellite revolution happened without a satellite tax."

However, Lord Carter's theory is that to fund a minimum 10Mb/s (yep, this is "super fast" 10Mb/s we are talking about) to every home in the nation would cost 5bn-10bn. Getting fibre-optic to the home (FTTH) would increase the bill to 25bn. The proposed Broadband tax is threatened from 2013, which will probably be the kiss of death for the UK's fixed line telephony services!

Amongst other fascinating suggestions from Carter's report:

* Scrapping all FM and AM analogue broadcasting from the end of 2015.
* Allocating 200m of the BBC's licence fee to other news broadcasters.
* Fudging some sort of merger between BBC Worldwide and Channel 4.
* Curbing Internet piracy
* Curing the common cold

We are kidding about the last one, but we don't quite see any of the other items reaching the Statute Book any time soon.