The government is proposing that public funds will be used to subsidise rollout of broadband to ensure that virtually everyone in the UK will be able to receive a 2Mbps service by 2012. In addition to this, they will be introduce a 50 pence per month levy on phone lines, dubbed the 'broadband tax' to help deliver next-generation broadband to 90% of the UK, targeting the funds for the hardest to reach areas.
The timing of any government intervention in relation to next generation broadband is a source of debate with wide ranging views both within the political parties and within the communities at large. Some economists have argued that it is too early to spend public money on next-generation broadband as doing so could dissuade the competitive market from doing so on its own.
In a survey we carried out from 11 to 18 March 2010 with over 2000 responses, the support for government intervention was quite strong. In general terms, we had a relatively balanced group of respondents from the urban, sub-urban and rural areas:
Should the government subsidise (from taxation) 'up to 2 Mbps' broadband in those areas where the cost of building infrastructure is very high?
There was general support for the government to fund basic broadband services rollout across all groups of respondents, although as expected, those living in villages or rural areas were more likely to support such a policy (66-73%) whilst those in urban and suburban areas were slightly less supportive (52-53%):
Should the government subsidise 'next-generation' (25Mbps+) broadband in those areas?
There was a negligible difference in the support for government funding of next generation broadband services. Overall, 56% of users supported funding for next-generation services whilst 58% supported the 2Mbps minimum service. However, less than half of those in urban areas (47%) and the suburbs (48%) would support funding of nextgen services.
As the survey was carried out on the thinkbroadband website, it will show a bias towards those persons who are interested in broadband services, however it does suggest that there is strong support within the connected communities to help spread the benefits of Internet access to everyone.