back to article Labour to push for broadband tax before election

The Labour government has reaffirmed its commitment to a 50p per month tax on every landline, and vowed to push through the necessary legislation before the general election in May. Plans for the levy, to subsidise rollout of fibre-based broadband services in rural regions, were revealed in the final Digital Britain report in …


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  1. Anonymous Coward


    Introducing a new tax, shortly before an election. A sure fire vote winner...

    Badgers, because they live in the countryside, where the broadband tax is supposed to improve things...

  2. paul brain

    The problem with this is..

    Once a new tax is introduced at a nice attractive not-going-to-upset-too-many-people price of say 50p per month , is that after it becomes common place and people are used to seeing this on their bill, come the next budget and the next, this value will go up and up.

    I'm all for raising money to pay for major infrastructure investments that will ultimately benefit the society at large, but with this government, you just know that over time , this will just be identified as another revenue stream and the money will be diverted.

    Just force people to work for their social welfare benefits , that ought to solve most of the debt. Holes need digging for all this new fibre ...

  3. Defiant

    Scum the lot of them

    Most of these remote areas without broadband are obviously in Scotland and the Labour party has a large Scottish leadership within it. When you look at it this way it's no shock to hear they wish to force this through before getting booted out

  4. Da Weezil

    Another Taxation Stitch Up

    So... New Liebores "Social Justice" will see those trapped on high priced Market 1 exchanges being used to subsidise further improvements to urban networks? Worse, this will be in part funded by those with NO interest in being connected to ANY broadband service, so pensioners and other who are not broadband users will still be ripped off for no benefit to them ever!

    There can be no justification for taxing rural users further - we already pay through the nose for over priced BTw services. half the problem is the Minister in charge of this represents an area with wide choice of services on a fully deregulated exchange. The job should be given to someone who has actual experience of life without LLU!

    There is no justice in BTw hostages being fleeced even more to pay for network upgrades that may never reach their area. Not that any of this matters - we are just a captive cash cow population existing only to bankroll the stupid schemes dreamed up by the current crop of immature egomaniac politicians!

    We should only pay when the improvements reach us - its not like this is a state owned infrastructure now. Privatisation brought the responsibility for the company to find investment funding. Taxation is not the way to do this - unless each citizen paying it receives equity in the company!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    What about people with a virgin phone line?

  6. Chris Williams (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Virgin

    "The Labour government has reaffirmed its commitment to a 50p per month tax *on every landline*"

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Billions of pounds...

    ... was just given away by the Government to shore up incompetent bankers who had made stupid investments and taken huge bonuses (which they've not paid back).

    Now they don't have enough money to fund their "Digital Britain" plans so decide to slap on another indiscriminate tax to fund investment by a private company. New Labour are total lapdogs when it comes to big business.

  8. Anonymous Coward


    The last spasms of the corpse of a dying 'government'. Long may they rot in hell.

  9. Chris Collins

    Take it, bitch, all the way

    Of course this money would be entirely ringfenced and never used to shore up other bloated catastrophes, just like the road licence fund is entirely invested in the roads. I thought the Labour idea was tax the rich and give to the poor, rather than squeezing the poor until they bleed out of their arses and give the rich a free ride. Where does Lord Rothermere live, peer of the realm? Oh, in France. So no tax for him, then.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    The next BBC

    Isnt this roughly how/why the TV licence started, and look at the headlock the BBC has us in now.

    This will be yet another NuLabore initiative with good intentions but the ability to massively creep and extend scope, and will end up turning into yet another regressive tax unless someone speaks up and/or does something about it.

    What, no Gordon Brown dressed like Robin Hood? Oh wait, Robin Hood GAVE to the poor.

  11. Campbeltonian
    Thumb Down


    Actually the majority of Labour's support in Scotland comes from the urban central belt, Glasgow in particular. Rural areas in Scotland tend to vote Lib Dem or SNP, and increasingly Tory in the south.

    I do think that this policy is an indication of the dawning realisation in the Labour party that they're dead in the water and really don't have anything to lose.

  12. SlabMan


    Building a cross-Britain broadband network is a good thing. However, if it is publicy funded, it must be publicly owned. Otherwise, this is just a hidden (and illegal?) subsidy to BT.

  13. Andy ORourke

    If only it was spent on infrastructure.....

    I mean if the BILLIONS in road tax were spent on the road maybe, just maybe the M6 wouldnt grind to a halt because a couple of crisp packets have blocked all the drains and made the motorway flood during a five minute drizzle.

    Yep, agree with the posters above.

    1, the Broadband tax will NOT be used strictly for the improvements to the UK's telecoms infrastructure and

    2, BT, Virgin etc are PRIVATE companies, if THEY want to improve their infrastructure THEY should pay, if the Government want to improve the infrastructure we should CHARGE BT & Virgin, not give them the cash and let them rake in the profits!

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Wasn't this how...

    The "Road Fund Licence" (Tax Disc) on vehicles started. A tax to pay for infrastructure?

    My guess is this will eventually end up being more than 50p and possibly based on the advertised bandwidth of your connection.

    If people want to live in economically non-viable locations that's their problem, not mine.

  15. seanj

    Rushed legislation, in true Labour style...

    ... but is there any mention within this cash-generating scheme that determines when (if ever) we are to stop paying BT - a privately owned company - to upgrade it's infrastructure, or will we be paying this extra 50p (which will no doubt get "adjusted for inflation" at every opportunity) for the rest of our lives?

  16. Peter Depledge


    When can we expect to see 50p tax per month on electricity, gas and water bills? I live in a 'rural community' ie in the sticks and we have no access to mains gas or sewage. Our 'lectric is a bit flakey, too come to think of it.

    I knew this when I move in and accepted it. Like the way I'm quite happy with my 2Mb ADSL speed.

    I don't want or need anything faster. Especially if BT are offering it.

    Quite frankly, Mr Darling, you can stick this tax up yer ar$e.

  17. Frostbite

    more damn lies

    Yet another tax that will not be spent on what it is being collected for. Road tax isn't all spent on the roads so why would this tax be the same?

  18. Matthew 3

    Mobile then...

    I only keep my landline out of inertia. I live in a remote area where ADSL coverage only occasionally tops 1Mb: I've been teetering on the verge of switching permanently to a mobile dongle for ages. My ADSL costs and line rental will pay for a lot of data traffic...

    I think that there will be many thousands who will, like me, see this as an opportunity to re-evaluate whether a landline is really necessary any more. I know they're not asking for much more money right now but taxes rarely go down.

    Have they budgeted for a drop in the numbers of people with fixed lines? I think not.

  19. It'sa Mea... Mario

    Already P!ss3d 0ff..

    I'm already decidedly unhappy about having to Pay BT £12 a month for a landline I do not really need or use just so I can have broadband connected.

    I know for a FACT that they can enable use of broadband without enabling phone calls on the line but they just will not allow it because they can get away with charging for effectively nothing!

    It is not the same in all countries and I understand (but do not know for fact) that Virgin cable customers can have broadband without a phone service if they wish but I do not live in an area with cable.

    I don't think I've ever used the phase before (although have often agreed with others when used) but this is a perfect example of 'Rip off Britain'!!!

    Not to mention that fibre capable of 100Mbits/s is being installed to the homes (not just the street cabinets) by FibreCity (albeit in just a couple of 'Trial Cities' ATM) I would far rather any revenue went to them to expand further and wider!

  20. The Original Ash

    I guess they've realised they're out

    Why else would they throw a fit like this? "Yeah, we know we're going, AND WE'RE GOING TO PUNISH YOU FOR IT."

    @Chris Collins: No tax, but if you tell his ISP he's sharing files more than 3 times he gets his internet disconnected for a month.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    I was worried for a moment......

    I was worried that I was keeping too much of my overtaxed income. Phew. Hopefully they will slowly put it up with a broadband escalator charge so just like emissions on your car. So those on 16mb broadband will pay more. Tbh, I don't know why they don't keep all of my income and send me food parcels. They they could use the extra to build a database of eveybodys eating habbits and use it to stop you being a teacher because you failed your CRB because you eat spicy baked beans, which is a clear sign of being a weirdo.

    Seriously, we bail out the banks who turn around and rip us off now we are going to bail out bt who no doubt will rip us off if we do ever actually get better broadband. Private business should fund itself. Bad management shouldn't be rewarded.

    Sooner this buch of muppets are thrown out the better.

    Mine is the one with the tory manifesto in the pocket....

  22. Tom 7 Silver badge

    So I'm going to subsidise

    people to have a much better broadband line than me? I'm at the end of the wire, no mobile signal here, I get an intermittent 512k and I'm going to have to pay so some tosser that doesn't actually want broadband can have it installed so they can watch pointless flash adverts that they don't want or illegally download BBC programs they've already paid for?

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why exactly...

    There is no broadband in these areas because they are remote. Same reason alot of them dont have sewers, and have only recently had mains 'leccy, and they get heating from oil rather than gas. Thats the price you pay for living out in the sticks. You pay less council tax, less for houses, and live somewhere nice with less traffic, but don't have some things like fast braodband. I want subsidised hills and rivers out of my front window from this tax then.

  24. Anonymous Hero

    @defiant - do I smell a bit of anti-Scottish racism?

    "Most of these remote areas without broadband are obviously in Scotland and the Labour party has a large Scottish leadership within it. When you look at it this way it's no shock to hear they wish to force this through before getting booted out"

    If you bothered to look up the electoral map of Scotland, you'll find that most of the "remote areas" of Scotland have either SNP or Liberal Democrat MP's. Stop being a moron and go get your facts straight.

  25. mark l 2 Silver badge

    virgin customers

    In answer to It'sa Mea... Mario question, yes virgin customers can have broadband without the telephone line as their broadband uses the cable TV networks coax and fibre network. Infact i have broadband and TV without their telephone as I used VOIP from sipgate which costs me £0 per month in line rental and works like a pay and go phone where i pre pay credit to make calls.

    Will the new tax apply to getting broadand over the cable network? I guess it would have to, to make it fair for all those who don't live in a cabled area and have to pay for a phone line rental for ADSL. As for those in remote areas, what happened to broadband over the power lines that was promised would be able to connect all these remote areas, after all they all have electricity going to their homes already and if they don't they won't be really needing broadband anyway.

  26. Alastair McFarlane

    @Anonymous Hero

    I agree with you, and wasn't entirely happy about defiant's tone either (I live in Edinburgh).

    However, I suspect the "large Scottish leadership" he referred to is, in fact, Gordon Brown.

  27. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Taxes never go away

    As other people have mentioned this may start at 50p per line, but it'll be seen as a relatively painless way of getting tax, so it'll go up and up.

    And will it ever go away? When everyone is connected to digital Britain will they say 'thanks for the money, your bills will go down now', or will the money be diverted into some other slush fund.

    There's a recent parallel here. When New Labour passed legislation to introduce digital TV the government made it obligatory for social landlords to convert their properties to digital TV. The cost of upgrading, (which in the case of blocks of flats can run into tens of thousands of Pounds), is passed on to the tenants and cannot be subsidised. Tenants have to pay their share of the cost even if they have no interest in receiving digital services or even don't have a TV.

    So you may not want broadband but you're going to end up paying for it to be installed whether it's wanted or not.

  28. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    What about some facts?

    If it's really a tax it's almost impossible to ring fence - tax goes straight into the budget. Easier to ring fence levies but you do have to have a Quango to manage it (the key is the n in Quango) and you do then have to decide who to give it to to get the work done. It is generally not a good idea to tell BT, who thanks to the moronic privatisation under Maggie actually own most of the cable in the country, that they'll get a couple of billion if they promise to extend it to the more rural areas. Best bet might be to get regional and local councils award it to competing bidders to build and operate but not own - in many cases wireless links to local exchanges might make more sense. Some kind of measurable targets with incentives and penalties are probably a good idea as are studies of how it's done elsewhere.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    I'm on a WiMax service, so I imagine I won't be paying.

  30. Anonymous Coward

    What's the bloody point?

    So BT get a massive hand out to upgrade the super-fast speeds. Why? You can't download anything, 'cos as soon as you do move more than 10MB a day, all the scanners spot you, check the content, automatically assume it's MP3 or some other form of illegal content and then you will get kicked off the network for 12 months!

    Now France have got the 3-strikes law up and running, Gordon and all the other EU leaders won't be far behind, you mark my words! Then it's big fat paychecks to directors from the media companies for keeping the proles from ripping into their profits!

    The current internet is dead in the water... send the odd email, read the odd bit of news, but don't even think about trying to use for anything else now. Like previous poster said, dump your landlines, get a good mobile contract and one those cheap Vodafone/3 USB dongles for your desktop! Broadband just doesn't seem worth the effort anymore!

  31. The BigYin


    Perhaps if the MPs stopped making false claims and shoving the noses into the trough, the money saved could be used to fund this.


    Self-serving arseholes, the lot of them.

    Vote for a change.

  32. Anonymous Coward

    Virgin, again

    As a VM customer, having paid through the nose for CableTel / NTL / TeleWest / VM to roll-out their broadband without subsidy, it seems a little unfair that I now have to subsidise future roll-outs for others. VM and everyone who has provided infrastructure should at least be getting a cut of the tax revenue raised.

    The irony is, the paltry amounts raised will do little towards achieving their goals.

    Way to go Gordo, but full marks for digging your grave and nailing on the coffin lid yourself in the run-up to election defeat. Have Gordo and New Labour got a single cluon between them ? Rhetorical.

  33. Simon B

    In other news ...

    NOBODY voted for Labour this time around, Labour are still at a loss as to what they did wrong.

  34. GhilleDhu


    They can do it if they want, I already just use VOIP and to be honest I last put a tenner on it at Christmas. Just checked and there is till £8 left.

  35. Martin

    Enough already....

    NuLabore and NuLiebore are just childish - up there with M$.

  36. The Other Steve
    Big Brother

    Dumb and dumber

    Raising money for public infrastructure projects by tax is all well and good, if the infrastructure is public, but since the telecomms infrastructure is in private hands, it should no longer qualify for such investment.

    If there is a sound commercial investment opportunity for faster broadband connections, then the private telcomms companies will have no difficulty obtaining capital in the usual way, e.g. they can borrow it or issue stock.

    If they can't raise funds this way it really rather suggests that there is no demand evident. If this is the case, then seeking funding via taxation to provide the capital is simply forcing everyone to pay for something that that is neither wanted nor required, or at least not enough for people to voluntarily pay for it.

    Call it rent seeking, call it theft, call it extortion, either way it's a fucking stupid distortion of an already pretty fucked up market.

    And as so many other commenters have pointed out, the idea that al those extra fifty pences would find their way to some mythical utopian broadband project are slim, to say the least. The proposers of this tax know that, of course, they just hope we haven't noticed so that they can sneak an extra revenue stream under the guise of some trendy e-society wankfest.

    Watch out for the first fuckwit to suggest that opposing this is akin to denying our children the opportunity of an education or to putting the poor in ovens, I've no doubt that they can get the race card in there somewhere as well, but I can't bring myself to imagine how.

  37. James Hughes 1

    I live in the sticks.

    I pay a large wedge in council tax (no it isn't cheaper than in the city - far from it, and the services are much poorer in general), have to put up with roads that are falling apart, have to use expensive oil, have to drive 60 minutes each way to work (Bus? what bus?), have to put up with 40 ton potato lorries going past my house at over the speed limit (40mph) and have to lock up the house and garden to stop the thieving Didds grabbing everything..

    However, I do get 6Mbps broadband without any problem.

    (To be honest, I like it here....)

  38. pedrodude

    Wireless uptake

    I'm *almost* seeing an advantage in that it'll increase the attractiveness of mobile networks and therefore hopefully speed investment and development on that front. But that's the only fucking advantage.

    Otherwise, they can take a hike and stop trying to tell everyone they know better than us what to do with our money. Socialist bastards.

    Here's hoping this is just a feeler to gauge the public's reaction and hasn't been inked into the budget.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    High speed broadband only make sense if...

    If you download music, pictures (movies/big stills) or web pages filled with eye-candy. If you want eye candy or music and picture over the web then you should pay for it through your ISP subscription. I'd much prefer to not have eye candy and I suppose I'm one of those boring old farts who doesn't download music and films and who would prefer to listen to the radio/cd or watch a film at the cinema or from a player.

    I'll take correction but I believe almost everybody has access to highspeed broadband over their telephone line. I live in rural Nottinghamshire and it has been available for several years so that I would hope by now it has reached the even more remote parts of the UK. If not then focus on that.

    I've no interest in supporting any tax to roll out 40MB and more bandwith lines to UK locations and I resent the idea that I must be taxed so that the government can develop a 'Digital' Britain when there is NO valid evidence as to the economic, social or other tangible or intangible benefit .... it just feels right... nonsense!

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    A Title

    Fully agree with Paul Brain and Andy Orourke

    @ It'sa Mea... Mario

    you can improve upon your bt line rental, you may or may not have heard of a company, formally toucan communications which happen to do landlines, price at the moment i believe is 8.99 per month,

    they were however recently bought out by pipex, who is owned i think now by tiscali, but dont let that put you off, im still with them and had no problems at all with my line that i dont use for calls, just broadband.

    im not sure what the deal is with the monopoly that is bt at the moment, because i left them about 3yrs ago now, so you may or may not be locked in unless you pay to get out of course, which i would expect from bt.

    is the site if you wanna check it out

  41. Jamie Cooper
    Black Helicopters

    Here come the taxes...

    I'm sure this won't be the last tax to miraculously appear in the next few years, regardless of whether we have a Labour, Tory or Lib Dem government.

    Lets face it the country is now in massive debt due to bailing out various financial institutions and that money needs to be recouped as quickly as possible, in case they don't learn the lesson this time and do it all over again in the future.

    So this is an ideal opportunity to slip in a tax that looks like it has a genuine purpose, even when it doesn't and add the revenue generated to the countries debt plan. Look out for more on the horizon people, there's plenty more things that can be taxed even more than they already are. Don't expect it to stop after a change of government either, they'll still need to pay the countries debts back somehow, as well as needing cash to fund all the new ideas they'll have once they get in.

    So just see this as "Generic Tax 1", the fact it's supposedly on our phone lines is irrelevant.

    Black helicopters as people are bound to think I'm a conspiracy nut......

  42. Andy ORourke
    Thumb Down


    OK, I know, I know, they are useless but it made me feel like I was maybe trying to contribute. check it out -

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good idea... long as the government gets to keep control of any fibre that is built using this subsidy.

  44. No, I will not fix your computer

    Re: Re: Virgin

    @Chris Williams

    "The Labour government has reaffirmed its commitment to a 50p per month tax *on every landline*"

    Repeating it doesn't define it, do you know the answer to this question? some definitions refer to the fact it's a telephone line, some to telephone or data which is the case? do they mean DSL/ADSL hardwired connection? what if a house has a DACS splitter is this one or two landlines? does a cable connection become a landline if it's used with VOIP? what about the definitons of landline that include microwave connections?

    One might assume it includes Virgin, if so why exclude those who pay for satellite or mobile broadband (it becomes a landline at some point surely?), how about hybryd systems that switch between the two?

    Two important points here;

    1. The article is unclear and you've made no effort to clarify it.

    2. Privatisation of public companies (BT/Rail/water/electric/Health/Education etc.) does not help society, so taxes and laws are put in place to do it, vote a government in that sells your assets and you will end up paying more or getting less.

  45. Chris Williams (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Re: Virgin

    Well the government hasn't published leislation but, so far as their concerned so far a landline is a terrestrial voice subscriber account, no matter who the network operator/unbundler/reseller.

    what if a house has a DACS splitter is this one or two landlines?

    It's one.

    does a cable connection become a landline if it's used with VOIP?


    what about the definitons of landline that include microwave connections?

    Not clear what you mean.

    One might assume it includes Virgin, if so why exclude those who pay for satellite or mobile broadband (it becomes a landline at some point surely?)

    They're not landlines.

    How about hybryd systems that switch between the two?

    Still not a landline.

  46. not.known@this.address Bronze badge
    Big Brother


    Calling the current Government silly names may well be childish, but since practically every other form of protest is either illegal or "merely" suspect behaviour under the new (so-called) "anti-terror" laws, what else can people do to show their displeasure?

  47. David 45


    Be interesting to see how they are going to improve the abysmal speed where I live. Even though it's an well-established urban area just outside of a large town, built several years ago, I can only get half a meg (less than that most times) and it seem there are all sorts of covenants restricting what folk can and can't do, like no outside TV aerials, for instance, (even though terrestrial reception is extremely patchy) and another one, which is the killer, is that the estate, for some reason, can't be dug up for cable to be provided, which my neighbour tells me was planned a few years by a cable company and never came to fruition, despite virtually the whole of the town and other surrounding districts being cabled. Don't see why I should have to pay a "tax" on my landline for "improvements" which will never happen.

  48. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Down

    More of Labour's scorched Earth policy in action.

    This one is right up there with getting Post Offices to start taking your details to issue ID cards before the next general election. I am aware this will be for foreign visitors initally but they want the role to start expanding early (to the rest of us). Naturally its a case of "If we did'nt fund them like this they would close."

    This one will be along the lines of "See this nice new tax you can have. All ready to raise if you need a bit more cash." New taxes for incoming governments are like handing high qualaity drugs to an addict and asking them not to take any.

    As others have pointed out its too small to make a difference, makes CSP's into tax collectors and in any case if there was an ecconomic case for such an upgrade the companies could raise investment cash themselves. But most of all it's a *tax* which goes to the Treasury. There is *no* ring fencing of what it will be used for.

    Look out for more decrees from the last days in the bunker.

    It's setting up the poision pills for the next (likely conservative) government.

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just be spent on moats and chandeliers

    that's what they do with the tax money. And then to top it all off they will claim they have a legal right to net communications, it is just plain corrupt.

    The only question is how much longer are people going to put up with it?

  50. FibreGuy

    A BETter Way

    BT don't have to own the fruits of this broadband tax and indeed where any public money is spent on our 4th utility the result should be owned in the community interest.

    - have a look here for equity and ownership models already in place.

  51. John Stirling

    why don't they just...

    ...up the rate of VAT on telecom connections - from the current 15% to 20% - the collection infrastructure is already there, as is the payment structure, so whilst it is still gently bending over the electorate and inserting a broadband connection where there is no sun, at least it would be doing it honestly, and with less disruption.

    Although this is a pointless tax, and will be wasted and fail to achieve it's stated ambition, this is what Government is for - to raise finance to achieve societal goals which are not commercially viable.

    It's just a shame that in recent years Governments have forgotten that, and decided to try and control every aspect of our lives.

    Oh, and @No, I will not fix your computer; it makes sense for Governments to nationalise natural monopolies (water, gas, sewage, the rail network (not necessarily the trains on them), the road network. Other services which can be subject to competition are better left in private hands - provided there is genuine competition that will usually deliver a better and cheaper service to the user. Telecom physical infrstructure is not necessarily a natural monopoly, but it is only with the advent of wireless that genuine competition has entered the market for the whole package - this is because the physical infrastructure was paid for by public subsidy (other than Virgin, which was paid for by very stupid and optimistic investors - probably the same ones who paid for the channel tunnel). What should have happened as soon as the technology caught up was a nationally owned company owning the lines, and doing the maintenance, and private companies providing the calls.

    However that would be a pragmatic solution, rather than one which suits any particular ideological slant, so no chance.

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