Monday, June 29, 2009

UK: Top bosses attack the proposed STG 6 levy to pay for rural broadband

[The Times] Two of Britain’s biggest telecoms bosses have this weekend come out against the government’s proposed £6-a-year levy on telephone lines, labelling it as an unfair “poll tax” that marks a backwards step for their industry.

The measure, planned for next year, is forecast to raise between £150m and £175m a year to go towards a superfast broadband network in one-third of the country where it is not commercially viable to build it.

“It is like a poll tax, a fixed figure for everyone,” said Charles Dunstone, chief executive of Carphone Warehouse, whose Talk Talk business has 4.25m broadband customers. “I don’t really know if the government can justify it to the electorate.”

Jeremy Darroch, boss of BSkyB, which has 2.1m broadband customers, 1.7m phone customers and is 39.1% owned by News Corporation, the ultimate parent of The Sunday Times, said: “There are hard-pressed people who see a phone-line as a necessity, but may have no interest in broadband.
“When competition has done a good job of driving down prices, we don’t want government policy to force costs up again.”

The measure was a key plank of the communications minister Lord Carter’s Digital Britain report, unveiled last week.

“There are voices who have taken the very theological view that any kind of intervention is just bad,” Carter said this weekend. “I have to say I disagree. There is no evidence to support that beyond what I would call hard political theology.”

BT and Virgin Media, which hope to benefit most from the subsidy, declined to comment.

Top telecoms bosses attack phone levy proposal

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