Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Digital Britain : a regressive tax

Excellent comment from Charles Arthur at the Guardian

Against that backdrop, it is hardly surprising that the report is not wildly imaginative. It deals with structure and delivery of content, rather than the content itself. It worries about provision of local news, but (with the exception of a potentially interesting proposal on a role for new local news consortiums) decides that the main answer lies with regional TV news. To be sure, Mr Bradshaw is taking a risk in imposing a £6 annual poll tax on all fixed-line phone users to pay for extending the broadband pipe network - but it is the wrong kind of risk. Some will question the fairness of Aunt Agnes in Liverpool paying higher phone bills to enable her teenage nephew in the Scottish Highlands to download games. But there is a bigger problem with this proposal: the public is subsidising private companies to gain greater market access - with no public returns. When the government pumped money into the banks, it took a big chunk of equity for the taxpayer; here it is pumping money into the broadband network and taking nothing in return. There will be no equity stakes (which would at least have been fair), nor is it easy to regulate what goes down those broadband pipes. This amounts to an unconditional transfer of resources from the very poorest to the big technology firms
.