BT was given a £1.2 billion subsidy to boost the rollout of superfast broadband, with speeds of 24 mbps across Britain. The subsidy was worked out using forecasts that assumed around 1 in 5 households would take the new fibre optic broadband services on offer.
Take up of the services far exceeded expectations with around 1 in 3 households actually signing up. Because of this BT decided to hand back part of its subsidy which amounted to £258 million.
MP’s and campaigners understandably feel that the returned money should be reinvested into ensuring fast broadband reaches those in rural and hard to reach places, which are presently stuck with slower connections.
A former Conservative party chairman, Grant Shapps says, “This returned money must be ploughed back into speeding up our nation’s broadband as quickly as possible because it is not only the right thing to do, but it has essentially already been pledged to meet this high speed goal.”
Last year the government said they would be implementing a broadband universal service obligation (USO), This would mean that everyone in the country should have access to a broadband connection with a minimum speed of 10 mbps by 2020. They later backtracked on this promise, saying those in hard to reach areas would not automatically be entitled to this minimum speed, they would have to request it, meaning rural broadband speeds would still remain far slower than urban speeds in many areas.
The Telegraph say that this would result in around one million homes having to request a faster connection themselves, some of these would be expected to pay for the cost of connecting them to a broadband service that the rest of the country receive without additional installation charges.
The Telegraph are campaigning for better broadband and have received support from the Labour party. The shadow communications secretary said, “I fully support the Telegraph‘s campaign for Better Broadband.
“This spare £258 million returned to the Treasury by BT could make all the difference in connecting up the most hard to reach areas.
“Ensuring access to high speed broadband is one of the best ways in a modern economy for a Government to helps boost the prospects of small businesses and entrepreneurs.
“It also means citizens in the countryside have the same access as everybody else to public services.”
In a world which is increasingly dependent on internet access, it only seems fair that people across the country, no matter where they live have access to the same services. Concerns have been raised for small businesses having to deal with poor, slow internet connections when the new online only tax system is implemented between 2018 and 2020. Businesses with a rural broadband connection may be left struggling with their returns.
Michael Steed, president at the Association of Taxation Technicians, says; The result of having unreliable internet and being expected to do a digital tax return will be inaccurate tax returns and a lot of frustrated taxpayers. The Government has clearly not thought about this consequence, as it has not yet said how it will deal with people in this situation.”