In the budget today, the government has confirmed its previous plans to charge a 50 pence a month levy on all fixed phone lines which is expected to raise £1bn in the next seven years. This money will be used to fund rollout of next-generation broadband to the 'final third' of the UK, areas which wouldn't be able to receive super-fast broadband without government intervention.
On Monday, Gordon Brown delivered a speech in which he set out the government plans to deliver more services online. He said that to achieve this, universal access to next generation broadband was necessary by 2020. Benjamin Cohen of Channel 4 queried whether this actually meant 100% coverage, and we understand he clarified this as "every home". We therefore expected the budget to go further than the '90% 2017' promise. The government has also yet to clarify what they mean by 'next generation' or 'super-fast' broadband.
Campaign group Final Third First is calling on the government to fund broadband from general taxation instead of taxing phone lines:
"As with water, gas and electricity, broadband is now a public good and the essential fourth utility. The people have the right to demand ubiquitous connectivity that is effectively funded. The Government has made clear its determination to realise significant savings through reduced costs made possible through new digital communications technology. [..] If the fourth utility is not universal – to every person – the Government cannot realise the savings of its paperless dreams."A spokesman for Final Third First
The HM Treasury website has been overloaded with downloads of the full budget document demonstrating the increasing use of technology by the government and its citizens. Trefor Davies, CTO of ISP Timico reported a 22% growth of traffic compared to yesterday during the Chancellor's speech which was broadcast on various websites, which was similar to the Ashes cricket tests last summer.