Sky slams the "telephone licence fee"

Monday, June 22 2009, 14:25 BST

By Andrew Laughlin

Sky has criticised the 50p monthly landline levy proposed in the recent Digital Britain report to fund future broadband investment.
A spokesperson for the satellite broadcaster described the charge as a "telephone licence fee" and the "last thing" that the UK needs right now.
"A tax on fixed lines penalises existing customers and conflicts with the government's stated objective of driving broadband take-up," said the spokesperson.

While the company has backed the report's broad goal of "creating incentives for investment in infrastructure", it has also expressed caution that this must not favour any one particular company.
The spokesperson explained: "We accept there may be an argument for limited government intervention in areas where commercial incentives are not strong enough for the market to deliver on its own.

"However, it is essential that any public subsidy for fibre rollout or universal broadband access must not discriminate in favour of any company.
"Access to publicly-funded infrastructure must be open to all service providers on regulated terms so that consumers can continue to benefit from full and free competition.

"There can be no question of existing network owners using public money to enhance their market positions."
Sky welcomed the report's measures for combating illegal downloading, but said it was "disappointed" that a clearer signal was not sent out that anyone committing piracy is "breaking the law".

"However, as both a rights owner and an ISP, we've also been advocating a formalised, cross-industry framework to support rights owners better protect their copyright," the spokesperson added.
"We believe this is a positive step in that direction and will work closely with government, Ofcom and all parts of the industry to ensure timely and effective implementation."