back to article Darling confirms telephone line tax

Yesterday's budget confirmed Labour's intention to tax every phone line in the UK to the tune of 50 pence a month, providing funds for connecting the disconnected by 2017. The tax was widely expected, and was part of the Digital Britain proposals, but yesterday's speech confirmed that it will come in once Labour gets past the …


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  1. tony

    a title,

    So when are the country folk going to pay a tax to provide clean air and greater open space for the city dwellers?

    You pays your money and take your choice.

    1. Jimmy Floyd


      Is that a serious post? Living in the countryside is hideously more expensive than cities, mainly due to worse transport and the lack of the benefits you get with economies of scale. Maybe you've missed all the news about rural areas becoming a no-go for the less-well-off?

      Or maybe you've forgotten where all your food, water and clean air actually comes from?

      Bizarrely for a NuLab idea, this one isn't that bad. Decent telecoms in the countryside would help prevent a Chinese-style exodus to the cities and is pretty essential when travel isn't as simple as an Oyster card. It's also better than raiding the BBC and doing what we British do so well: damaging our world-leading institutions in a shit-storm of self-serving political meddling.

      1. Mark 65

        Title required

        "Or maybe you've forgotten where all your food, water and clean air actually comes from?"

        Sunny foreign country -> refrigerated transport -> Tesco/Sainsbury/Asda/Morrisons

    2. mmiied

      re:a title

      it is in all the tax mony on petrol and on cars (an escencle in rule places where 15miles is a short distance) that gose to fund public transport in cities

  2. YumDogfood

    The sense of giving us bad news before an election...WTF?

    Fuck off badger. I have no landline and only a dongle for mobile internet, but I suspect that tax will eventually creep over to my O2 contracts. The bastards.

  3. noroimusha

    that seems fair

    why do i have to pay for farmer Tom's internet upgrade when my internet in london Zone2 is not stable ?

    BT should sort out the lines cables and exchanges in the cities first

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Great news

    As a village dweller (although still get 1.4mbs), can I request my superfast broadband for 2nd October. Thanks.

    PS Townies are not paying for it, we ALL are paying for it and before people rant at me, I pay £200 year EXTRA council tax than the townies for LESS services, so who's sub'ing who? Eh? Eh? EH? Fiiigggghhhhhhtttttt.

    1. PsychicMonkey
      Thumb Down

      you are bot subbing us.

      your coucil tax goes to your council....

      It wouldn't be a problem to have this "tax" if it funded fibre for all, but it's not. it fibre for the "rural" areas. Plus it's not really a tax, it's a "Duty" which means they can add VAT on to it as well.

      My land line cost approx £10 a month, so 50p is a 20% duty plus vat.

      And what happens when the fibre roll out is paid for? who owns the fibre? will we still pay the duty then? I'm willing to bet yes.

      remember that Income tax was "Temporary"...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Charge me more

    Charge me £1 a month more - i.e. an extra £12 a year for 3 years = £36 total.

    For that, connect the rural disconnected at 2 Mbit/s (i.e. those more than 5km from an exchange) and the urban at 100 Mbit/s. Note, not "shared" 100 Mbit/s and no capping. Deliver the 100 Mbit/s service within 2 years, the rural service within 3 years.

    Remove the extra tax after 3 years. Then open the market up so others can use the infrastructure.


    The current deal is a money spinner for BT and offers the majority of voters nothing.

  6. zaax

    Put it on a pole

    Why can fiber be put on the poles that BT already have to these way-out communites?

    1. Steve X

      why not?

      Because those who live in the communities in question don't consider it important enough to pay what it would cost. So everyone else has to pay instead.

    2. Elmer Phud
      IT Angle

      Pole dancing

      Who would put the fibre there?

      Who will maintain it once it's up?

      Who will replace dodgy poles?

      Who will pay for the fibre?

      1. ml100

        Pole dancing

        Who would put the fibre there? Theres a tonne of fibre installers in the UK, BT being one.

        Who will maintain it once it's up? Read above

        Who will replace dodgy poles? Read above

        Who will pay for the fibre? As above - it might also be worth noting that fibre is cheaper than copper by quite a margin - its the termination, planning applications and digging up roads that costs the money.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    adsl hijacking

    This adsl hijacking was exactly what happened in my town. We had a wisp come in and begin planning, and as soon as it looked like we might have a chance to actually get a broadband connection BT announced the exchange upgrade programme where you needed a certain amount of registrations. At that point the WISP option was essentially dead in the water. I believe BT noticed that a lot of rural towns were beginning to investigate non-BT connectivity and so started their rollout with lots of publicity to kill it off as cheaply as possible. I expect something similar to occur with FTTH local rollouts - if it begins to look viable, BT will be forced to accelerate their rollout and make lots of noise about it to prevent communities organising their own solutions. Either way good for users, not so good for competition but we little people can't do much about that.

  8. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    50p at *least*

    Does anyone doubt this will rise?

    That it won't be ring fenced (handy for raiding if some other programme/department overspends).

    I cannot believe that ISP's cannot cross-subsidise their customers instead of this "we're so helpless we can't afford to run this extra fibre out. I doubt either BT or VM's yearly profits were exactly unhealthy.

    It's called investing in your user base or having a loss leader. as for wireless broadband I think *only* Ionica had a go at this seriously.

    Mine's the one with a burnt CD of Thunderclap Goldstein in the pocket.

  9. Citizen Kaned


    so us poor townies that cant afford to live in the sticks are paying for more well off people to get broadband. my heart bleeds.

    either way we are screwed. the tories will plunder the TV TAX to pay for their posh mates to get better broadband that the rest of us.

    of course people forget that BT was privatised by the tories so its their fault we have a shite BT now that is more interested in shareholders than providing a decent service to GB residents.

    im really looking forward to the election. which bunch of incompetant crooks will be in power soon to serve their own interests?

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      "we have a shite BT now"

      Short memory have we?

      It may be shite now, but that's nothing compared to the enormous rancid cesspool of decaying faeces it used to be when it was a Nationalised Monopoly.

      They were so god-awfully bad that when competition finally turned up in the shape of Mercury, they picked up market share simply by being useless rather than completely and utterly fucking useless.

      I wonder how much rural fibre* would exist were BT still a monopoly and there was no threat of WISPs picking up a market. Remember when considering your answer that there's a world of difference between the government saying they want fibre and them actually providing the investment capital** to pay for it.

      *Or any bloody fibre at all for that matter.

      **Decent comms for the Wurzels, a load of new hospitals or a fat tax cut. Which of these options do you think is the vote-loser?

      1. Anonymous Coward


        TeeCee "It may be shite now, but that's nothing compared to the enormous rancid cesspool of decaying faeces it used to be when it was a Nationalised Monopoly."

        I dont really remember the broadband service that was provided by the nationalise monopoly, but I assume it must have been really bad to be worse than the cesspool I have now.

        I assume that in some parts of the country there may be competition but certainly not where I live. There is only 1 option of a telephone provider (although admittedly I can choose to pay through other companies this doesnt change the shite service), no options for cable, broadband sucks because no one wants to develop it.

        The house has the same phone line as was installed by the "rancid cesspool of decaying faeces" that you object to. It has the same gas and electricity provision and I still only have access to public transport provided by 1 bus company and 1 train company.

        Other than the fact I no longer get access to national drivers for improvements, nothing has changed other than the branding. At least when it was state run the excess in other areas could be re-distributed. Now because there isnt much need, the train only stops every six hours (every hour under the nationalised rail) even though it goes through the fucking station.

        I would love to see the parts of the country where there is actually competition in infrastructure services because then it might make sense to me. As it stands, the government gave a cash cow to companies who now have an effective monopoly and give the money to shareholders rather than other state services.

        Bloody wonderful eh?

        1. Mark 65


          It's what's known as market forces. You only have 1 bus company as there is little point there being more. No cable as it's not economically viable. 1 train company because they can't run in parallel on the same track - although in your case it seems they can't be arsed with the station at all.

          All that is wrong with the BT privatisation is the fact that they gifted them with the monopolised network. The local loop should have remained in the hands of the public/non-profit trust with equal access for all comers. However, as I have stated before, the sale price wouldn't have been as good.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Free laptops as well?

    I have no argument about making sure that everyone has access to decent and reasonably priced broadband (see recent story about BT wanting to charge £56K to install BB to a house in Wales), and a small tax may be a fair way to cover it (but why only 2MB?)

    BUT, given that the purpose seems to be to make it possible to 'improve efficiency' by making us all interact with our masters via the interwebs, will our masters also be providing the gadgetry that plugs into the wire? We know the Tories are laughably incompetent when it comes to IT but does Darling understand that just having a wire with 2MB broadband doesn't connect you up? Does he think we just stick our fingers in the socket? Is this a step to requiring compulsory PCs in every house (all running Windows and IE6 so that they are compatible with government surveillance and net-filtering software)? Who pays?

    1. Anonymous Coward


      The young chavs get sent off to borstal, sorry Young Offenders Institutes, get a free XBOX or PS3 while in clinky and then get to take it home when their sentence is over!

  11. Witty username


    "vote us in again and we'll reward you with yet another tax!"

    Awesome election plan guys, couldnt have planned it better myself.

  12. cdtplug


    They need to get the speeds sorted for people in towns and cities before giving 50mb fibre connections to billy bob and his mates

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Bloody typical

    It'll be like the "road fund" licence. Add 50p onto every phone bill, spend 5p of it on the network and the other 45p goes staight into the pot to pay for more useless self-justifying civil service wankers.

    Broadband is not a right, it's a choice. Like good beer. If you want it, pay for it and/or move somewhere where decent quality is available. By all means use central taxation to ensure that each local library is equipped with a decent connection, as a public service, but this "digital divide crap" is just, well, crap. What next, extra tax on petrol so everyone can have a bike?

    (and before you start, I'm 4km from an exchange, only get 2Mbit/s, and am 1 hour's walk from the nearest bar. I chose to live here, and I don't expect anyone else to pay for a network upgrade for me).

    1. Elmer Phud

      road fund license?

      Road fund license dosh has been chucked back into the general pot for many years now.

      Winston Churchill didn't want drivers feeling that the roads belonged to them as he was well aware, even then, that the money collected didn't cover the overall costs of road use.

      Bikes don't cause much wear on roads.

      Tax on petrol is a tax on a legal drug, the biggest addicts make the most noise when the price goes up rather than wean themselves off by using less.

      4km from the exchange - sounds like there are a few cable joints in the way for 2Mb/s (expect 1M loss per .5km normal cable run)

      1. Paul 4
        Thumb Down


        "Tax on petrol is a tax on a legal drug, the biggest addicts make the most noise when the price goes up rather than wean themselves off by using less."

        So what about those of us who have to drive to work? Its either that or a 2 hour bus trip each way for me. An no I don't own a big car. Like so many in this country I have to travel a long way for work (it is 1 hour on avrage for people living outside of the major citys) Its not a legal drug, but a nesesaty for me and many others. They keep taxing it not because they want people to use less but knowing that we have to keep driving.

        I so wish people would stop using this stupid stupid argument.

      2. Aldous


        motorbikes do less damage to roads then cars, normally get more mpg etc yet why do i pay more road tax for a 65mpg 500cc bike then someone in a polo bluemotion thing that weighs 3-4 times more

    2. Shady

      "Broadband is not a right, it's a choice"

      But not for long - the government wants everyone online in order to access it's digital services. Once that happens, all those people who work in town halls accepting over-the-counter payments for council tax bills can be retrained as smoking cessation outreach co-ordinators.

      Afterall, the public sector now accounts for 53% of our nations GDP. 53% and climbing.

  14. Just Thinking


    This seems a bit random - a tax on landlines to pay for fibre for villages. Why should people with landlines be any more responsible for connecting our six fingered friends to the internet than mobile users?

    You might as well put a tax on carrots to pay for it.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Good idea....Tax on carrots...

      ..after all us country folk grow our own....

      PS, many of us don't give a toss about 50mb broadband, we can walk about safe in the knowledge we won't get mugged / stabbed*, so we can find other things to do than sit the watching the iPlayer / tossing over Jordan pics

      *until the townies decend on our pubs, get pissed up and can't work out where the neaest kebab shop is (int there ain't one)

      1. Anonymous Coward

        All wondeful in the sticks...

        No Jordan or iPlayer, just dull monotony of another day with very little to do except drink, leading to the "countryside" having the highest rate of suicide in young men in the country.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Joined up thinking? Joined up networks?

    Right. Get rid of your silly historic preconceptions and start thinking joined up.

    Many homes (and/or businesses) currently have up to four or five separate competing overlapping bitstream-delivery mechanisms, each of which requires its own infrastructure and therefore each of which incurs extra costs, costs which would mostly vanish if we had a genuine single national bitstream-delivery infrastructure (in the same way as almost all of us already do for water, electricity, phone, and gas).

    Merge the bitstream-delivery infrastructures for phone, DSL broadband, cable broadband, terrestrial TV, cable TV and satellite TV. All they do is deliver bits from source to destination (and, if necessary, get some data back upstream too). Put them all onto one fibre to the premises (VDSL is just a silly filler in) with access points in regional centres as required.

    Make sure Emperor Murdoch is as far away from it as possible for commercial reasons, and also make sure that BTwholesale are as far away as possible for commercial and technical reasons.

    Once you've done that, let the "service providers" (that name is a joke if ever one was) and content providers (BBC, ITV, Sky, Arqiva, etc) have at it - *then* you can have competition if you insist.

    Obviously in an economy driven by the god of market forces and the suppliers' desire for multiplay lock-in there's no way that kind of customer/service oriented flexible delivery is ever going to allowed to happen; after all, markets never brought us mains water, mains gas, mains electricity, or a universally available phone service, and a proposal like this makes perfect sense but upsets ALL the incumbents equally (sadly including the small ones too), but you gotta have a dream occasionally.


    what's a phone line for tax purposes anyway?

    I have one line, and one bill, but two numbers (no it's not ISDN) How many lines is that? Some businesses still have ISDN30 and the like - how many "lines" and therefore how many 50p taxes will that be?

    1. Chris 22

      It'd true

      Nationalised Fibre to the home, even if sold off directly after it's done, would be a sensible option however I believe it comes under the general heading of socialism and we don't appear to have a socialist party to vote for

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down


      > genuine single national bitstream-delivery infrastructure (in the same way as almost all of us already do for water, electricity, phone, and gas).

      That's *4* services, all supplied in separate ducts by separate companies. At least three of those could be supplied in one pipe, by your argument. Surprised a government hasn't suggested it, would make a single 'service delivery tax' much easier to add.

      > after all, markets never brought us mains water, mains gas, mains electricity, or a universally available phone service,

      You need to brush up a bit on your history of technology. Electricity was supplied (local distribution network included) by competitive businesses since the days of Edison and Westinghouse, until it got nationalized. When telephones were invented they were offered to the GPO, who declined on the basis that they would never catch on. Only when market forces proved that it was wanted did governments step in to nationalize it, and service went to pot (there's a POTS joke there somewhere). Those who whine about today's telecomms situation obviously don't remember the days of the monopolistic under-investing GPO with party lines. As for mains gas there are many places (like NI for instance) who still wouldn't have it were it not for private industry.

      In my case, as a non-townie, my gas is in a tank, my water comes from a locally-managed spring-fed reservoir, my drains end up in a septic tank. I have mains electricty only because *I* paid to have the network extended to my house.

  16. 0laf Silver badge


    Bet they put the tax on the bill before VAT so they get 17.5% on that too. Just like with fuel duty.

    Tax the line then take tax on the tax.

    Cucking Funts!

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Scrumpy for Broadband?

    A few more pence on Cider duty should sort this. Then the tax will be targetted directly at those who will benefit from rural broadband.

    1. dogged

      top plan

      next you can suggest a curry tax to provide broadband to Indian people.

      But you don't have the balls for that, do you?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I've only seen black swans, therefore etc..

        Possibly because it's not only Indians that eat curry. Considering what we did to their continent, I think it's jolly nice of them to even talk to us let alone allowing us to benefit from have their recipes and cooking skills.

        1. dogged

          by the same token

          not everyone who drinks cider lives in the country. Especially if you're swilling Magners apple juice with ice in it.

          You just made a sweeping, discriminatory and small-minded comment is all, so I thought I'd show you exactly what it was, stripped of your urban mindset.

  18. Shady

    Roadtax mk2

    This will pay for rural broadband in exactly the same manner that roadtax pays for the upkeep of our roads.

    1. Anthony Cartmell

      Vehicle Excise Duty!

      Road tax doesn't exist. VED is a tax on a luxury, and goes into general taxation just like tax on alcohol, cigarettes, etc. Only the owner of a vehicle pays VED, not each driver, and it's not based on how much you drive.

      The Road Fund Licence was abolished decades ago, and it only ever paid for national "trunk" roads anyway. Non-motorway roads are funded from general taxation at the local authority level: roughly a third from business rates, a third from central government, and a third from council tax payers. We all pay for public roads, even those who don't have driving licenses!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        A car is a luxury is it? So why does the car tax also have to be paid on work vehicles? All those vans and lorries that keep the country functioning? They aren't a "luxury" by any definition of the word.

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Shady vs VED

        Anthony Cartmell "Road tax doesn't exist. VED is a tax on a luxury, and goes into general taxation just like tax on alcohol, cigarettes, etc."

        I think this was the point Shady was trying to make...

      3. Anonymous Coward

        Almost right...

        ...a) a trunk road is not a Motorway, it's an "A" road.


        "We all pay for public roads, even those who don't have driving licenses!"

        Yes and us car drivers pay for trains and buses we DON'T use. So get over yourself.

        Public Transport cost goverment money

        Private transport makes goverment money.

      4. Anonymous Coward


        > We all pay for public roads, even those who don't have driving licenses!

        Bollocks. By the time you take VED, VAT, fuel duty, and the rest, motorists pay the treasury approx 10x what is spent on the road infrastructure in the UK each year. It's motorists who subsidise all the rest of you.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hardly matters...

    If anyone thinks the cash from this tax is going to go anywhere near solving rural broadband problems, they're on another planet. Just another New Labour backdoor tax, which the Tories will complain about but apply just as enthusiastically when they get back in. We're not being screwed to support rural communities - we're just being screwed - period.

  20. blackworx


    If I want fibre to my house, the best thing to do is move to Fuckbucknaewhere and wait?

  21. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      BT's expansion to the sticks.

      Nathan, this is just so so wrong, technically. There is no "gain" on an ADSL line, and the basic ADSL technology (standards and kit) have remained basically unchanged for ten years or more. If anything changed to allow DSL to be available further out from exchanges, it was that BT finally decided to stop using arbitrary rules based on often-incorrect information to decide whether or not someone can order broadband.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's only so...

    ....they can keep tabs on people in the countryside as well as the cities...

    they don't like people being off the `grid`....

    and what better way than getting us lot to pay for it.

    Who gives a crap if people in the countryside don't have broadband?? Move to a city?! Isn't the whole point of being in the coutryside that you don't want to live in the busy hectic modern world?

    But I'm sure the governbent are doing it out of love and genuine concern about people not having internet access.

  23. John70

    Rural Area

    Why the hell should people with land lines pay an extra tax so rural areas can have broadband?

    I'm sorry but it's the telecoms companies that should pay for this. Not add more tax.

    They asked for Government help because it isn't cost effective to put the infrastructure in place.

    And what will happen if (not when) all this in place? Will they remove this "tax"?

  24. gaz 7


    Missed this gem when I was reading about Cider and petrol going up.

    Why should the country folk get subsised broadband. What about all the people in towns who cannot get decent fast broadband, and I know loads. Granted I am lucky and get a fast reliable and decent service from Virgin over cable, but I pay a decent amount for it. The laying of that cable was not subsidised by taxes.

    If I am going to have to pay for fibre to Farmer Giles' house for him to check out mucky pictures of sheep, then I want bloody fibre to my door too.

    Petrol is more expensive in the Sticks, as is Bread, jam and everything else if you buy it at the village shop. Are the Government going to stick 10p on a loaf of bread in Asda and Tesco, so country folk can buy theirs cheaper!!

    I used to live in a village in the country (out of choice), and 90% of the people who lived there, and just about everyone I know who lives in the country does so out of choice.

  25. UTP
    Thumb Up

    Licence fee

    Once a telephone/broadband tax is established it will be able to take over from the TV (Multimedia) licence fee. TV licensing wont last for long as people watch less telly and more selected content. A broadband tax reaches right into this problem with a genuine excuse behind it. I for one am happy to pay the little extra even as a non licence payer, and even though inevitably I believe it will end up escalating to replace the TV licence.

  26. Jason Sheldon


    So if I'm investing in the fibre infrastructure with all my monthly 50p's - does that not make me a shareholder too? OR am I right in thinking that we pay for it, and then the broadband companies make a huge profit.. when do I get my dividend - and will our 50p phone tax stop once the country is connected?? Doubt it.. there'll probably be continuous upgrades required..

    Have the shirt off my back as well why don't you, y'bastards.

  27. Anonymous Coward


    Right, you townie lot, we're holding yer Taters to ransom unless you give us some o that fast broadband lovin' !

    You wants yer Taters, you gives us a slice of life in the fast lane, ooo'aaaar.

    We'll also be takin' pot shots at you ramblin' and cyclin' types - "Get oorf my laaaand or gives me Broadband!"

    Seriously tho, this is a bit pants - as a former suburbanite now renting in the countryside, those country folks as wants thier interwebs can easily afford it, but the speed is slow.

    If we want fast broadband in the countryside, we should have to pay for the infrastructure - why should city dwellers have to pay for it?

    Unless, of course, the government is determined to get the countrys pikeys online - however, they'd first need to teach them to read... er, and wash... and stop nicking...

    ... I'll get my coat... (mines the Barbour, next to the green wellies)

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Not me!

    I cancelled my landline the second this was proposed, haven' t missed it one bit either.

  29. FoolD

    Information Highway

    I don't think too many people would object to the principle of a temporary tax to pay for the roll out of fibre - but people need to see firm commitments to abolish the tax once the stated goal is acheived (without mission-creep).

    As it stands it looks very much like the thin edge of a 'road fund' style tax, which even if well-meant to start with will probably end up the same way - the amount taken creeping up and up but the money diverted further and further away from the originally intended goals.

    One can almost hear the $$$ go ker-ching in the minds of the tax collectors when they finally realised how they could tax the "information highway" - just think of fibre as roads and information as cars. Just get ready for the hike in 'petrol' tax...

  30. Jolyon Ralph

    Probably a good thing

    While, in general, I'm not opposed to country folk getting access to the internet, and a tax such as this is probably the most sensible way to pay for it, that kind of only makes sense if the network is under public ownership. Otherwise the government is forcing phone companies to raise extra tax from their customers to then pay for a brand new network to be handed over to their rival, BT.

    Perhaps a better way would be for the government to say to BT and the other companies "sort this out yourself, build a national network with 99.9% broadband access by 2014 or we'll take control."

    But then, in 20 years time we'll probably see some kind of digital Beeching Report, determining that broadband lines to the far flung places aren't worth the expense of keeping them running.

    Anyway, technically isn't the answer 3G/WiMax? Couldn't the whole thing be done relatively cheaply?

  31. CollyWolly

    Wasn't this what wimax was meant to solve?

    I never got my head around what exactly Wimax was for, but I thought it was to allow remote places to connect without laying loads of fiber. I will happily be corrected on this one.

  32. Jacqui Smith's DVD Collection!

    Public funded

    Public funded means this infrastructure should be owned by the public and open to all ISP's. Why should we pay a tax in order for a private company to make a profit?

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lots of 50ps

    Lots of 50ps will be needed to pay the rateable value to light the fibres that will be needed to provide faster connections...

    1. MadonnaC

      used to feed meter?

      Electric or gas, your choice

  34. Captain TickTock

    Charge per MB used

    If the ISPs charged a fair price per MB used, they'd be wanting everyone to use as much as possible, and to do that, they'll be investing in infrastructure, town, country wherever.

    And scrap the fibre tax where they pay per metre of fibre laid down.

    That doesn't help fibre get out to the sticks...

    Sent from my Black-beery (can we have a guinness icon?)

  35. plrndl

    History Lesson

    If you think this is to pay for rural broadband, you're nuts.

    1. It is a fundamental principal of British taxation, that everything goes into one pot. If Road Fund Tax funded roads, they'd be paved with gold.

    2. History shows that taxes are usually introduced as "special measures" to fix a specific problem. The rate is then hiked each year, while the problem is forgotten. If I remember my history (never my best subject) Income Tax was introduced at 6 (old) pence in the pound for only the very wealthy, to fund World War 1. The rest is history.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down


    2. Steve X

      close, but...

      Income tax was introduced to fund the Napoleonic War in 1799, paid by anyone with income over 60 GBP per year. It was switched on and off again over the years but has been permanent since 1842. 1s3d in the pound by 1882, by the time of the First World War it had gone up to 3s in the pound (15%!) on the first 225quid (after allowances), 6s over that. They thought they were getting screwed then, lucky sods had no broadband to worry about...

  36. Antony King
    Thumb Down

    General Taxation

    Doesn't practically everyone have a landline - even if they don't use it for voice? Surely this should be added on to general taxation - then those on silly salaries (ie, the bankers that the gvnmnt bailed out) get to pay a bit more, and those of us earning peanuts don't have our nuts squeezed, so to speak.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    @History 12:48 "I'm all right jack"

    I think you're the one needing a history lesson.

    Market-led electricity struggled to even agree whether to use AC or DC, let alone the voltage or the shape of a plug. The concept of a "national grid" power backbone could never have been brought about by market forces. Just look at the appalling mess the UK electricity supply is in these days as a prime example of what happens if you leave it to the market.

    Telephones started as local private companies but duly became a nationalised outfit, with a "universal service obligation". The LLU broadband outfits in their cherry-picked areas with their race for the gutter in service quality show you exactly what happens to broadband provision if you leave it to the markets and don't have a USO.

    In your own personal case, you have reliable mains electricity not just because you paid for the "last mile", but because public money paid for the construction of the National Grid. In the next five or ten years your electricity (and most people's gas) will get less and less reliable as demand exceeds supply and as people stop selling natural gas to the UK. We got here because market forces have been allowed to run rampant, to the detriment of the infrastructure and the public. Five years from now, you will be glad that you have your own local supplies of water, and your own local store of gas.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Market forces

      I have to disagree. Market forces can work very well, look at GSM, 3G, etc.

      Electricty companies may have struggled to define standards for electricity, but that was as much by design as anything. Why would one company standardise on something that allowed their customers to change to an alternative supplier? Does "Microsoft" ring any bells? Without those market forces the development of *any* infrastructure would have taken far longer.

      "So, Mr Faraday, you call it a generator? What does it do again? Ah, well, there's no demand for electricity in such quantity, people are perfectly happy with their gas lighting, and I'm sure the maids do an excellent job with the washboard. I don't see any point in government investing in that, hahaha. Maybe the defence ministry would be interested, or perhaps the circus?"

      As for rampant market forces, at least part of the problem is the creation of artificial competition rules to try to create a single system without allowing a monopoly. That's not market forces, that's meddling incompetent bureaucrats.

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      So BT's power is all for the good then

      >>Telephones started as local private companies but duly became a nationalised outfit, with a "universal service obligation".

      And this was good how exactly?

  38. Anonymous Coward


    ... this can only go well

    Also I demand that cow owners be charged 50 per beast to fund my fridge

    wire me the cash ... oh .... lulz



    should anyone be expected to pay to compensate BT for their failure to serve customers?

    If taxpayers fund national telecom infrastructure projects, that infrastructure is public property. I don't see a big problem with the state investing in the county's infrastructure, but if so, BT (and other competitor telcos) can buy or rent that infrastructure from the state.

    On the other hand, I do see an enormous problem with a shameless tax funded bailout to rescue a failing private sector telco and its failing CEO.

    The Broadband Stakeholder Group (reported in The Telecom and Times) estimated that it would cost £1.5Bn to bring fibre close to just 40% of homes in the UK by 2012. And £5Bn to provide fibre to *all* UK street cabinets. Or £29Bn to connect *all* UK homes with fibre.

    So, back of the fag packet calc... 50p month per landline would take around a decade to bring fibre close to 40% of homes. fifty years to bring fibre broadband to all street cabinets, and two and a half centuries to provide fiber to every home.

    The numbers really don't add up.

  40. alphaxion

    titles and spectrecles

    Aye, I don't think this tax will go away either when its initial goal has been achieved.

    How about we stop adding and upping taxes all over the place and look at some good old fashioned ROI examinations on various governmental activities and departments.

    Pretty sure we could pay for this without increasing the amount we have to pay if we stopped going to other countries and killing their inhabitants at the behest of the US and our own businesses desires.

    The way things are going, I wouldn't be surprised if the UK descends into a mass of rioting and civil unrest - once we've exhausted every avenue of written bitching ;)

  41. Mark Eaton-Park
    Thumb Down

    I reckon Labour are just making sure they don't win

    BT have been making money hand over fist for the same old bit of rope that was stolen from the tax payer.

    After the PHORM fiasco BT should be made to provide this service at their own cost, they are still laying copper now just because no one has forced them to do otherwise.

    Provide a proper service or we take the network back and do it ourselves, then I would't mind paying a tax, atleast it would be spent on the network rather than rewarding the fools who managed to milk a cash cow dry.

  42. PirateSlayer


    I don't understand. A tax levied on lines which is then given to a private company to do something other than line the pockets of its shareholders...pull the other one.

    I would have prefered a rise in income tax and a fair process to find the cheapest service provider...not that god awful company which thankfully I now have absolutely nothing to do with.

  43. NogginTheNog

    Location location

    Ok so some yokel/rich twat CHOOSES to live in the sticks. So I (urban dweller) have to subsidise his/her Internet connection?

    Bloody hell do they want us to come and drop off their shopping as well??

    1. dogged


      I still live quite close to the village I was born in. My best friend (since age 4) does, too. I work in IT, he's a farm worker.

      He doesn't have broadband, or an email address or anything. I do (at about 1Mb/s). No problem, you might think - he's a farm worker, he doesn't need it. And I'd agree.

      But then again, he has two children at primary school, both of which are already being told to find resources online and look stuff up on the Internet. If they lived in a town, they could go to the local library. But there isn't one here. If they lived in a town, broadband would be about 1/3 of the price I pay which is considerably more than his £235/week will cover. But they don't. Because if they lived ina town, then his livelihood would be unavailable and they'd all be dole scroungers.

      Which do you prefer paying for?

      Incidentally, he DOES have a landline. So he'll be paying the tax too.

  44. ahandle

    A right pigs ear!

    In Italy we have what I suppose is Wimax, all from €19.50 a month - Basically it uses masts and each mast covers a pretty big area - this map shows masts currently up and running It is not nation wide yet, but it is being done by a private company that happens to be owned by none other than BT! So if they can do it here cheaply then why can it not be done in the UK? Me thinks that the government has sold everyone down the river!

    1. David 45


      Would it be similar to: ?

      I am seriously thinking of abandoning my landline, as I hardly ever use it for speech. It's only there for the internet and I can get by with my mobile phone for the few calls I make and, financially, there would be little difference. I am in the coverage area of the above, so seems like a good deal to me.

  45. b166er

    Use your noggin

    Hopefully that was just a troll.

    You see, rural users have been paying the same as town-dwellers for their broadband and receiving a lesser service. IE subsidising town-dwellers getting better broadband. Now it's time the favour was returned and townies contributed to get the rural users up to speed, see?


  46. JP19

    13 years and they still come up with new stealth taxes

    Tax is tax, hypothecation is bollocks. So it is just a new tax which we will be paying forever and is as unwelcome as any other tax.

    FuLab (and the dickhead Tories) wanting to piss away our money because they think people who can't simultaneously stream 7 1080p HD videos on their net connection are socially excluded is an entirely separate FAIL.

  47. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    Confusion unbounded

    Malcolm Corbett has *nothing* to do with the announcement of the phone tax, so his comments about fibre to the home are just that. Comment on the main story by an interested party. While he makes good points about providing real competition for the 'last-mile' (or five) to BT, he is really completely detached from the real world. We really cannot afford a complete new infrastructure for the countryside.

    What many people commenting here do not understand is that it is not just people living in the middle of Dartmoor who cannot get broadband, but people who live 5 miles out from a town with a local telephone exchange. Where I live in Somerset, I get ~7Mb/S, but I live about 0.75 from the exchange, as-the-crow-flies. But if you live a couple of miles out of my small town (population of around 10,000), you are lucky to get 1Mb/S, and if you are unfortunate enough to have significant runs of copper-on-a-pole (or worse, aluminium), then you are likely to get zilch, nada, nothing. We're not talking about wilderness, we're talking small towns and villages with green space between them that do not need an exchange to provide phone services.

    It is too easy to complain that people should not have moved to the country, there are many, many people for whom it has been their whole life, not a lifestyle choice. Why should they make a 'lifestyle choice' just to get *ANY* internet access.

    What I think that the bill aims to provide is a basic 2Mb/S service to 95% of the population. This hardly counts as a "super-fast" broadband service, and the comments about 50Mb/S for farmer Giles who just looks at sheep-porn just show how fnorking blinkered and uneducated some of you cnuts are.

    Technology limitations and cost is what is preventing universal fast net access (how I hate it when 'broadband' is used inappropriately).

    What should be the aim is single fibre bundle to a roadside box in the middle of a village, with copper to the house, possibly combined with the phone system to provide a DSL type connection. But even this is a major upheaval when you currently have separate metal wires from each dwelling to the nearest exchange. Whilst I abhor additional taxation, providing some financial support for rural *communities* is almost certainly a Good Thing(tm)

    Reading through the BS that some people are spouting makes my blood boil. I'm off for a beer to cool down!

    1. JP19

      What you think?

      "What I think that the bill aims to provide is a basic 2Mb/S service to 95% of the population."

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

      "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".

      So when they say 'super-fast' you think they meant "2Mb/s basic", and you complain about others here sprouting BS?

    2. Citizen Kaned

      i grew up in a village too...

      but we cant afford to live in one now due to massive house prices.

      you also seem to assume that everyone in a city gets lightning fast BB. remember that due to contention ratios in towns sometimes our BB crawls.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

      I don't object to the idea of universal broadband, nor do I object to paying for it. However, I don't see why the hell anyone should be paying ten bob a month to BT for this to happen. The big idea is that people with surplus capital decide to invest it in a venture the they hope will provide a return: perhaps the best example of this is the development of the railways in England. Concerned citizens get together to build a railway from A to B, form a company, subscribe capital, hire engineers and contractors, operate railway and, if they got it right, profit.

      Compare and contrast that with a set up where a firm that has a labour party scrounger on the board ( gets to cream off, what, 120 million a year (23 million households times 50p a month times 12 months in a year) for saying they might get round to doing something that will enable them to charge their customers more.

      This is trick that the Tories (who I'll probably be voting for, god rot them) first pulled with the 'regulators' and the water companies. The brave risk taking capitalists are given a state sanctioned pass to gouge the customers at inflation + x%. And the greedy bastards went whining to the govt when inflation got lower than the shareholders were happy about.

      The alternative model is that citizens get together, decide that something would be a public good (eg sewers, which benefit everyone who doesn't have to put up with the stink, not just the person on the pot), mandate their government to raise taxes to build and operate the facility without the need to pay off a pack of thieving scum.

      Not that this bothers me, I blew british bloody telecom out years ago.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not just a rural issue anyway

    The "no broadband/slow broadband" is not just a rural thing anyway, all it takes is for a (sub)urban area to develop in the wrong place relative to the telephone exchange which was built a few decades previously when the developed parts where in a different locality, and you've got tens of thousands of people in an area that can't get decent DSL speeds today and probably have no prospect in the foreseeable future, courtesy of BT and VM. Well known examples would include Milton Keynes, Docklands, Basingstoke, Redditch... you probably know more.

  49. The BigYin

    In a few years time... will be an "internet license" or something and cost £10 or more (on top of your ISP contract). The money (like most taxes) will not be hypothecated and will simply keep MPs in champagne and fois gras.

    You read it here first.

  50. JMB

    Telephone tax

    Why not tax the cable telecom companies that have cherry-picked the lucrative urban areas and never made any attempt to serve rural areas, surely they are the one who should be paying for rural areas out of their profits?

  51. Reg Sim


    Why does BT get to own the local loop?, I have said it before and I will say it again, BT needs split and a new entity created which will do local loop unbundleing, and deal with cables to homes.

    That way, all the companys can happly fight tooth and nail to provide customers with the best/fastest services they can possibley manage, whilst the chap paying the bill knows that he can change companys easly, and if there is a line fault he will be dealt with well even if he is not on BT.

    <Shakes fist in air>

  52. ken jay

    why us

    Do you know that i feel like i am paying twice for the internet nowadays. not only have i paid the higest price for the biggest service for 15-20 yrs now i have to help people who are not that interested in the internet get online, what a farce next we will be bringing back sunlight tax oh sorry that probably comes under the carbon and c02 taxes .

    getting really fed up with the uk :)

  53. Anonymous Coward

    I am a townie but when will I get a decent broadband connection!!

    I live on the edge of a town in Lancashire - the BEST we can get is 1mb broadband - when will we get a decent service - never mind rural communities - thye need to finish the job in urban areas !!

    My mother who live in the countryside in Durham gets 8Mb!!

    Its time this useless govt. and BT stopped talking and actually DELIVERED SOMETHING!!

  54. Andrew Macrobie

    Openreach excess charges

    Are, frankly a farce and a joke. Not only is the consumer expected to pay for the initial installation (to the tune of thousands of pounds) but then is expected to pay upkeep and duct use charges on top before they transfer a bit of data or make a single call.

    I recently had half a kilometre of 24 core fiber installed as part of a business project, crossing through private and HMG property; terminated and and costing half of what OR are asking to drop 100m of fiber into existing ducting, run along existing traywork terminate in an existing cabinet.

    The schedule of works is the real eye opener; Cherry picker hire - £580, Drilled holes (2 off) £380 ea, Ductwork etc etc etc.....

    If they're operating on that basis, then you'll need a lot of bloody 50p's to even start considering getting fiber to street cabinets and exchanges.

    BT and Openreach have the market sewn up and make no mistake.

  55. TrinityX

    Why not force BT to fork out?

    BT make massive profits at everyone's expense, fail to provide an adequate service, and yet it's the tax payers who have to find the shortfall? Whether it's a tax on the phone line or raiding the TV licence (which won't really be raided - it'll just go up to cover the "raid"), the company supposedly charged with providing national telecommunications continues to fail to do so and is supported in its failure.

    (And why does everyone assume that everyone living in the country is rich? Most people were born there and are as skint as everyone else. But the poor have always been easy to ignore, haven't they?)

    1. Anonymous Coward

      BT Profits

      > BT make massive profits at everyone's expense

      Gawd, not this crap again.

      BT are a big company, most people have no clue how big, especially now it's fragmented into lots of business units. Big companies make big *OPERATING* profits, defined as the difference between *day-to-day* costs (salaries, electicity bills, etc.) and *day-to-day* income. Now think for a moment where those profits go. Shareholders? You haven't got BT shares if you think that.

      BT don't get to keep those profits. A large chunk goes straight to the treasury as tax. Most of the rest goes to invest in new equipment. My BT numbers are out of date now, but in the days when they had 5000 exchanges the life of an exchange before it became obsolete was 15-20 years. That meant replacing 250 - 300 exchanges a year *all the time*. They get to the end of the list and start again at the beginning. That is more than one per working day, and at anything from £1m up each. Doesn't take long to burn through a few £bn with bills like that to pay, and that's without all the rest of the capital expenditure.

      Far too many people hear "profit" and assume it's just the fivers that end up in their back pocket. Do some business studies, for goodness' sake. Then look at the pitiful dividends that BT shareholders get (2.3 pence per share interim dividend this year) before screaming "profiteering".

  56. Equitas
    Thumb Down

    Who costed

    rural installation of fibre optic cable? I strongly suspect that the figures being used bear little relation to reality. It's proved quite possible to bring electricity, water and phone connections virtually everywhere. In many areas of the countryside installations have been done using nothing more sophisticated than some variation of a mole plough -- a vastly cheaper exercise than digging up and reinstating roads and pavements. What's more, the massive installation programmes of the 1950s and earlier have almost all been re-done at some point in the last 50 years without any crippling expense. The cost per mile in the countryside is tiny fraction of the cost per mile in urban and suburban areas, and as has been pointed out, with fibre optic cable, it's the connections that really up the cost. Is it possible that the accountants have been distorting the picture more than a little and producing rather skewed figures?

  57. Bruce Ordway

    Why should the country folk get subsised broadband.

    The electrification of the country seems to have worked out OK here (US & the New Deal). Why not put in broadband too? There are a lot of good people out there to include. I don't like to pay taxes for a lot of things. Better, shared infrastructure would be OK though.

    >Petrol is more expensive in the Sticks,

    Not in the city where I live. Gas is cheaper in the country.

  58. Mike Flex

    The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

    Mr King wrote >Doesn't practically everyone have a landline

    Not for much longer. Is that the siren call of VoIP I hear?

    (Smug cabled townie here so no need for flaky ADSL. And as everyone in the house has at least 2 mobiles I can tolerate some downtime.)

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