Broadband News

Poll Results: Public opinion on prospect of a broadband levy

Some two weeks ago the idea of a levy to help fund the provision of superfast broadband in the final 5% of the United Kingdom surfaced again. We ran a poll for seven days seeking some feedback on what the general feeling from the public was and over 1,300 people decided to express their opinion.

The difference between the yes and no camp is so small when we asked whether a levy should be imposed on broadband providers that it is fair to say the UK appears to be evenly divided. What was interesting watch the votes roll-in was that the split only ever varied by percentage point or two over the course of the seven days the poll run.

When you change the question to make it more personal and seeing money disappearing directly from your own bank account only 1 in 3 seemed happy with the idea of levy. The suggestion therefore is that when its a faceless company paying people don't mind even if the end result would probably be that the charge was eventually rolled into their own service bills as part of an annual price rise.

The re-investment of some £129m via the claw back mechanism, that the cynics say is part of BT trying to ensure they are seen as a continued solution for improving superfast provision in the UK to some extent may help to dissuade the imposition of a levy. If take-up of superfast broadband can continue to grow beyond the current expectations of BT it is possible that we may see even more money being placed on the table helping to push coverage even further.

Looking back at our coverage of the original 50p tax proposal we saw that 'clarity' is something that is still often lacking and thus it seems the idea circle might actually have gone full circle back to 2010 with regards to how things are tackled in delivering superfast broadband to the final 5% from 2017 onwards.

  1. Need for a full-time minister To some extent resolved as while we have seen the figurehead at DCMS, Ed Vaizey MP has consistently held the reigns in terms of fielding questions in the House of Commons and elsewhere.
  2. Clarity on 2 Mbps USC This is an area where really we are none the wiser, the phase 1 BDUK project with its 90% superfast target has greatly improved USC coverage, but for now there are dis-jointed schemes to subsidise satellite based connections which will tick the box but we are sure that households and businesses would rather have something a little more fit for purpose and without the usage limit issues.
  3. Lack of a killer app BBC iPlayer and other streamed TV content has become the killer app, but its not really clear if politically that justifies spending public money. A lot of the measurable benefits of ever better broadband coverage comes from savings in how businesses and the public interact with the various elements of Government, from farmers submitting online cattle movement records, to people emailing their local council rather than queuing at a council office.
  4. Broadband Tax: Regressive A levy is a tax in all but name and given the dropping of the original plans so soon after the General Election it is a surprise to see them resurface.
  5. Fibre Rates Still very much a bone of contention and now inexorably linked with the debate over whether Openreach should be hived away from the BT Group or even nationalised.


I pay more to have faster broadband in a rural area. I am therefore rather reluctant to pay more to subsidize others doing the same. But I can understand why they might want it.

  • Michael_Chare
  • over 3 years ago

A shade under 13% of respondents are dumb. Where do they think the providers will get the money to pay a levy? Most of the money providers have comes from their customers. Increase their outgoings they will all increase their prices to compensate, not eat the charge. Margins are quite thin enough as it is.

  • Dixinormous
  • over 3 years ago

I can't help but wonder what B4RN users will think about paying for others to get faster broadband, likewise those communities that put their hands in their pockets and paid BT to upgrade their cab or rearrange their EO lines.

  • MCM999
  • over 3 years ago

The government has just sold RBS shares at a £1bn loss, if they had waited and made a profit or even broken even that could have helped a little? guess helping their mates who bought the shares is more important though!

  • astateoftrance
  • over 3 years ago

As an early Internet, then early broadband user, I paid a much higher price than now. In effect I paid for the infrastructure cost in my early years. Why on earth should I have to pay for future infrastructure as well?

  • Fellwalker
  • over 3 years ago

Providers have to invest to recoup returns. Their investment in infrastructure gets repaid in future. Will phone users contribute to enabling 4G near me - or even decent 3G? Of course not; the providers have to INVEST so that they meet their coverage target. Will Virgin customers all contribute to a fund so that Virgin can install their cable network past my house? Any levy is a short step to multiple levies. Once introduced, it is so easy to increase.
If it is important to the UK economy, it is a matter for general taxation. If not important, don't do it!

  • Fellwalker
  • over 3 years ago

Levies are the way to go. It's politics, not economics. Taxes are hated. But if people want something, they'll pay for it, whatever the price. In fact they'll probably pay more through levies, though they don't see it.

  • mervl
  • over 3 years ago

@mervl. I prefer the Gigaclear approach. Get enough people to sign up for a project to be economic.

  • Michael_Chare
  • over 3 years ago

Generally speaking anyone who voted no is a bit of a muppet anyway.
Getting the whole of the UK on superfast would ultimately benefit everyone at the end of the day.

  • ahockings
  • over 3 years ago

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