My boss blogged approvingly about the proposed broadband tax. Predictably (for those who know me) I think the idea sucks.
The basic principle is that everyone with a fixed line telephone will be taxed 50p a month to help fund the expansion of high-speed broadband coverage in the UK. Put like that, it all sounds very reasonable – but here’s why I think it falls into the ‘great on paper’ category of Government wheezes.
- My grandma doesn’t, can’t and never will use the internet. The amount may be pretty nominal, but the government is going to take money from her meagre income to subsidise those who will. I think there’s a important point of principle here. It’s like taxing typewriters so that people who use PCs can get better gear.
- Even with increased capacity and speed, there will still be a lot of people who don’t want to use the internet at all, or who can’t/won’t pay for better connections.
- So much of the money will be lost in administration that it isn’t even funny. They’ll need legislation to cover how it will all be connected. They’ll need a system to collect the tax. They’ll need a pilot scheme. They’ll need to assess the results of the pilot scheme. They’ll need to vet BT and all the subcontractors (who will, you can be sure, overcharge massively). They’ll need to review the pilot scheme. They’ll need to start rolling it out. All of that takes a fat wet bite out of the money they’ve raised – so the £175 million collected will be nothing like the amount that actually goes on construction.
- I know a good half a dozen people who have already disconnected their landlines because they don’t use them as it is. As that trend continues the revenue from this tax will decrease. When set against the effects of inflation, the government won’t be raising anything like the money they think they will a few years down the line. You don’t have to spend your time looking through government accounts to see that their predicted revenues from tax are woefully inaccurate. And hey – look how well that’s working out for us all!
- Do you think that when we have created a digital utopia that a future government will repeal the tax? (hint: income tax was introduced specifically to fund the wars against Napoleon)
- Are the government even backing the right horse? Physical broadband, with its attendant palaver of wires and providers and installation and everything else might give the best results now, but I’m pretty sure the future belongs to HSDPA. I take my internet connection with me wherever I go. Is it is fast and reliable as ‘proper’ broadband? Probably not. Is it good enough for me to watch things on the internet, download music, view porn and work from home (not simultaneously, I might add)? Sure it is. And it will only get better and more widespread as the use of 3G phones booms. There’s already 35 different mobile broadband packages that I can count. But hey – maybe I should be subsidised? Right? Guys…?
So aside from being wasteful, unfair and probably spent on the wrong thing… well actually, nothing. That’s all it is.