Phones levy to pay for broadband boost

Author: Press Association

The Digital Britain report proposed a 50p-a-month levy on all fixed telephone
lines. This money would go to an independent Next Generation Fund that would
provide subsidies for operators to deliver super-fast internet to areas
where it would not normally be commercially viable.

The Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw also said that the Government intended to
upgrade all national radio stations from analogue to digital by 2015.

He further announced that the Government would legislate to curb unlawful “peer-to-peer
file-sharing” of digital content. Furthermore, it would implement a new
more robust system of content classification for the video games industry.

The Digital Britain report, compiled by Communications Minister Lord Carter,
included a pledge that every home in Britain would have access to
two-megabits-per-second broadband by 2012.

This will be achieved using £200 million in public funds left over from the
digital switchover help scheme.

Communications regulator Ofcom will be given new powers to clamp down on
people who persistently download music and films from the internet
illegally.

This is aimed at reducing unlawful online file-sharing by 70 to 80 per cent.

But Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the British Phonographic Industry, said
the report had failed to speedily implement more effective measures,
accusing it of “digital dithering”.

Mr Bradshaw said: “Britain’s digital industries are among the most successful
in the world. The global technological revolution means if we make the right
decisions now they will continue to grow and Britain will continue to
prosper from them.”

Mr Bradshaw acknowledged that the ease with which modern digitised content can
be copied makes it “increasingly hard to convert creativity and rights into
financial reward”.

He said: “Developing legal download markets will best serve both consumers and
the creative industries. But we will also legislate to curb unlawful
peer-to-peer file sharing.”

Ofcom will be given a new duty to cut down on the activity including
obligations to notify people carrying out unlawful activity and release the
identities of serial infringers to enable legal action by rights-holders.

Serial music and film pirates could also have their bandwidth reduced by
Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

He reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to universal access to today’s
broadband services but warned that, left to the market, the next generation
of super-fast networks would only cover two-thirds of the country.

Telecommunication prices have reduced “significantly” in recent years and are
expected to carry on falling, Mr Bradshaw said.

“We have concluded that the fairest and most efficient way of ensuring that
people and businesses are not left out is to use some of that saving in the
form of a small levy on all fixed lines to establish an independent national
fund which will be used to ensure maximum next generation broadband
coverage.”

Internet entrepreneur Martha Lane Fox, who founded Lastminute.Com, will be the
new “digital inclusion champion”.

Public services “will be delivered primarily online and electronically” in the
future “making them quicker and more responsive to the public while saving
money for the taxpayer”.

The report was written by Communications Minister Lord Carter of Barnes, who
last week announced he is to quit his post and leave the Government next
month.

Mr Hunt told the Culture Secretary: “With Lord Carter’s surprising and rather
hasty departure from the Government, it is now you, less than a fortnight
into the job, who must now pick up the baton in an immensely complex but
vitally important area for the economy.”

Earlier Gordon Brown pledged to transform Britain into the “digital
capital of the world” as he paid an early morning visit to a broadcast
and mobile communications firm ahead of the launch of the Digital Britain
report.

The Prime Minister toured the Arqiva site in Crystal Palace, south-east
London, which is home to one of Britain’s 50 high power transmitters.

The Prime Minister was joined by Business Secretary Lord Mandelson, Ben
Bradshaw, the new Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and Lord
Stephen Carter, Minister for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting.

The group were shown examples of analogue television and radio transmitters
inside the firm’s headquarters and met two young apprentices, before going
outside to view the 750ft tall broadcast mast which services 12million homes
across greater London.

Speaking about the significance of today’s Digital Britain report, which will
set out the Government’s plans for the future of the internet and
communications industries, Mr Brown said: “Britain is going to lead the
world. This is us taking the next step into the future, being the digital
capital of the world. Making the investment that is necessary, but making
sure that no family, no household, no business misses out. Every business
will have access to fast broadband and the report today makes it possible
for this to happen in the quickest time.

“Britain will be the broadband capital, Britain will make the investment
that is necessary and every citizen in Britain will benefit from the fast
connections.”

He added: “I think what we have done is brought together all the
providers in the area. We have harnessed the new technology, we have looked
at what is possible for the country, so we can have universal services
provided to every citizen in the country. They can get fast interactive
broadband, that will mean they can use all the services possible throughout
the country. People will be looking at what we can do and they will say
Britain is leading, but they will also say that nobody is going to be left
out.”

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