Digital Britain broadband tax: Should we pay?

Jennifer Scott

COMMENT: So I waited and waited. I wrote about all the rumours, the pre-report reports, the ministerial speeches. I go on holiday for a few days and the Digital Britain report gets launched without me. Well there was no way this was going to pass me by without me putting my two megabits in.

The main story, and the one that interests us all at IT PRO, is about the recommendation of a 6 "tax" on phone lines to help pay for the roll out of broadband at the minimum speed of 2Mbps to everyone in the UK - the promise made by Lord Carter, although he has until 2012 to put the wires in place.

So is this 50p a month a nominal fee for a necessary commodity or just another stealth tax for something we haven't asked for?

A broadband speed of 2Mbps is barely enough to stream live TV yet many people in the country don't have this speed, if any internet at all. This was always going to be a huge part of Lord Carter's report and finding a way to allow everyone to have at least the basics seemed imperative. Surveys even recently showed broadband being as important to people as water or electricity so surely everyone would understand the need for a little levy to get this going?

It seems, however, that when the money to pay for it is coming out of our pockets, we are less than keen on the idea. In reality, not everyone wants broadband. I can hardly see my rather elderly next door neighbour pounding on the commons door were she not able to check her Facebook account. However, she does need her phone line and, as small as 6 may be, is it fair she should have to pay it?

Flip the coin though and it must be admitted that for all those who don't need nor desire the World Wide Web, there are plenty more stuck in areas unable to simply check an email account, let alone catch up with Eastenders on their iPlayer.

I can understand the anger surrounding this report. Lord Carter is scarpering off back to the private sector before anything gets implemented, and money from the tax payer may be moved from funding the public television station to failing private ones but, seriously, is everyone up in arms about 6?

The internet is, in my opinion, a necessity. Not perhaps imperative for pleasure but certainly for work, communication and information. I am happy to sit at home and play cards, have a chat over a glass of wine, but I would not be happy if I couldn't check train times, get an email informing me of tube strikes, know if a meeting got moved suddenly before I left home or just be able to look up something that has interested me to learn more about it.

The vast majority of people with a phone line will have or want broadband, so whilst you may have to buy one less iTune a month, you are ensuring the internet is not the privilege of a postcode lottery but available for all.

We don't know if this so-called tax is going to be implemented or not yet but really Britain, open your wallets for the cause of broadband for all. If it goes through at least we can all transfer the funds online and there are even more people who might ask to follow you on Twitter.

Jennifer Scott

Jennifer Scott is a former freelance journalist and currently political reporter for Sky News. She has a varied writing history, having started her career at Dennis Publishing, working in various roles across its business technology titles, including ITPro. Jennifer has specialised in a number of areas over the years and has produced a wealth of content for ITPro, focusing largely on data storage, networking, cloud computing, and telecommunications.

Most recently Jennifer has turned her skills to the political sphere and broadcast journalism, where she has worked for the BBC as a political reporter, before moving to Sky News.