Wednesday, March 24, 2010

UK Budget 2010: Darling puts emphasis on broadband for all

[bbc] Chancellor Alistair Darling reiterated the government's commitment to making Britain a digital world leader, with plans for a major broadband roll out.

He announced super-fast broadband for 90% of homes by 2017, funded by a £6 annual tax on landline phones.

The Conservatives have vowed to scrap the tax if they win the next election.

Fast net services will create "hundreds of thousands" of new jobs while putting services online will lower the cost of public spending, the chancellor said.

He also promised more tax breaks for the UK's computer games industry.

"The UK has the potential to be a digital world leader. It needs high-speed broadband for rural areas as well as urban, it must not be limited to the well-off," the chancellor said in his budget speech.

The broadband tax has proved controversial. The proposal is to charge people with fixed lines 50p a month to help fund super-fast broadband, although it is not clear if those who use cable services will be included.

It has been branded unfair by an all-party group of MPs who say that most people who pay it won't reap the benefits.

It is aimed at the so-called final third of the country that is unlikely to be included in commercial plans to roll out expensive fibre optic services.

Some experts were surprised that the chancellor did not reiterate Gordon Brown's commitment to bring super-fast broadband to 100% of the UK by 2020.

"We are disappointed that the budget has simply repeated the government's previous target of 90% coverage by 2017," said Sebastien Lahtinen, co-founder of broadband site ThinkBroadband.

UK Budget 2010: Darling puts emphasis on broadband for all

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