Darling's budget confirms levy on landlines
Chancellor Alistair Darling has today confirmed the government's planned 50p per month tax on UK landlines will come into effect later this year.
By charging landline owners £6 per year, the government hopes to raise up to £175m annually to help fund the extension of next-generation broadband services to areas where commercial providers are unlikely to take their rollouts, such as rural regions.
The tax will take effect from 1 October this year.
Darling told the Commons the UK has "the potential to be the world leader in the digital economy", potentially creating thousands of new businesses and hundreds of thousands of new jobs and also allowing public services to be delivered more cheaply.
"We have taken the decision to ensure the benefits are spread to rural as well as urban areas and are not limited to the better off.
"The 50p monthly landline duty will unlock private investment and enable 90 per cent of the country to access the next generation of superfast broadband by 2017."
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Gordon Brown pledged to see 100 per cent of the country able to access superfast broadband in the future. He did not put a timescale on when superfast broadband ubiquity will be achieved, however, or give any indications of what kind of speeds users can expect.
The Tories have also seized on broadband as an election issue, promising in their recent technology manifesto to deliver 100Mbps to a "majority" of the country by using a portion of the BBC licence fee to help fund superfast broadband rollouts.