Quite possibly the most stupid tax ever to have been suggested has now been confirmed by the current government Chief of Eyebrows, Alistair Darling. The money will be used to ensure the country has access to ‘superfast’ broadband by 2017. This is a revision of the original plan to ensure ‘superfast’ 2 Meg broadband to everyone by 2010. To announce the tax, Darling said,
“We are modernising the UK’s digital infrastructure and, in the process, creating thousands more skilled jobs. We have provided funding to help extend the opportunities of the broadband network to more remote communities.
“We now want to go further, so we can provide the next generation of super-fast broadband to 90% of the population by the end of 2017.”
Let’s just clarify a few things. Firstly there is no definition of what “super fast” broadband is. 50 Meg is fast today but in 2017 you can bet your bottom dollar 50 Meg will be very slow – seven years ago we were all on dial up modems and were lucky to get 1 Meg an hour. Secondly, this is not just a tax on those of us with broadband; anyone with a fixed telephone line (i.e. not a mobile) will be paying it, even if they do not have broadband at present.
The roll out of broadband is for “90%” of the country by 2017. I’m shocked by this, to be honest I don’t mind paying £6 a year if it means a school in some remote part of Wales gets broadband but 10% of the country – obviously the areas that are difficult to reach with broadband – still will not have internet. So what exactly are we paying this tax for?
Going back a month or two ago you may remember I rated Ed Vaizey a ‘Fail’ when it came to the Conservatives views on this tax. They have announced that if they win the next election they will scrap this tax and favour a ‘market lead approach’ – in other words get the big companies like BT to push broadband as far as they can go before the government steps in.