Government ‘Considers’ Making ISPs Pay For Rural Broadband Rollout

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Chancellor George Osborne wants the likes of BT to pay for the cost of connecting the final five percent to superfast broadband, according to reports

The government is considering making communications providers pay the cost of connecting the final five percent of premises not covered by existing superfast broadband, according to a report.

The Financial Times says Chancellor George Osborne (below) wants to impose an industry levy on the likes of BT and TalkTalk so the government can fulfil its pledge of universal coverage by the end of this parliament while still delivering the savings promised in the Conservative manifesto.

Broadband tax

george osborne tech city engineering officeExisting broadband projects, such as Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), will reach 95 percent of homes and businesses in the UK by 2017, with trials of ‘alternative’ technologies like satellite and LTE taking place to see what is best suited for the ‘final five percent’ of premises, mostly in rural areas.

“We will secure the delivery of superfast broadband in urban and rural areas to provide coverage to 95 percent of the UK by the end of 2017, and we will ensure no one is left behind by subsidising the cost of installing superfast capable satellite services in the very hardest to reach areas,” said the Conservative party manifesto.

BDUK was largely funded by ‘top-slicing’ the BBC licence fee, but this practice is set to end as part of a deal that will see the corporation fund free licences for the over-75s – another example of how the government wants to offload the cost of policies to the private sector.

With the estimated cost of reaching the final five percent in excess of £500 million, the government could look to do the same with broadband.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which is responsible for government-sponsored rollout projects had not responded to TechWeekEurope’s request for comment at the time of publication, while BT, which has won the majority of BDUK funding, would not comment on the speculation.

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