The government began a consultation process today to help decide how best to spend the £1bn it hopes to collect via a proposed Landline Duty for upgrading the UK’s broadband network. The Department for Business Innovation and Skills is hoping to get 90 per cent of the country online by 2017, with speeds starting at 2Mbit/s in order to help the country remain competitive in the global marketplace.
Business secretary Lord Mandelson said at the launch of the consultation process that the investment would help ensure that hard to reach areas of the country will not miss out on broadband access. “We cannot underestimate the opportunities this will bring for homes and businesses, which is why we are taking action to make sure everyone benefits,” he said.
Mandelson added that the upgrade will help boost the business potential of Britain’s digital economy, and also bring in jobs to the country. The government is worried that private investment in networks will only reach around 70 per cent of the population by 2017, and has proposed the Landline Duty to help fund its goal of 90 per cent as part of the Digital Britain initiative.
“The market is delivering superfast internet speeds of 50Mbit/s to half the country, but we cannot be certain that it will reach the communities that are not currently served,” Mandelson added. However, the Landline Duty, dubbed the Broadband Tax, will levy a 50p charge on every fixed landline, and has been criticised by ISPs such as Talk Talk.
On Tuesday the Earl of Lytton, a former member of the House of Lords, likened the charge to the hugely unpopular Poll Tax, and warned of a public backlash. The government has also said that it will appoint a procurement team to oversee the delivery and management of the project.