Digital Britain minister Stephen Timms has defended the government's controversial landline duty, arguing that it is the best way to fund the delivery of high-speed broadband to 90 per cent of the UK by 2017.
Timms said at the National Digital Inclusion 2010 Conference today that the 50p per month duty is a small price to pay to help provide the country with a next-generation internet infrastructure.
"The cost of the landline duty is minimal in relation to the benefits it will provide for business. It is important that we get on with overseeing the development of next-generation services," he said.
Timms added that access to high-speed broadband is vital in helping many businesses, particularly those in rural areas, to compete and thrive in the current economic climate.
"Businesses in rural areas often say that the thing they really need to be able to compete with those in urban areas is high-speed broadband, so they can send gigabytes of data across the network," he said.
"The £1bn landline duty is intended to provide just that by enabling the creation of next-generation internet speeds in areas that private sector funding would not otherwise reach."
Last week, Timms announced the formation of Broadband Delivery UK, a body that will oversee investment in the next-generation network and the universal service commitment of 2Mbit/s broadband for all by 2012.
Prime minister Gordon Brown underlined the government's desire to narrow the digital divide in a pre-recorded video played to delegates at the Digital Inclusion event.
"We are committed to ensuring that the UK becomes the world's first entirely online nation. We intend to make high-speed broadband available to everyone, and we will also capitalise on the opportunities of the digital age to offer services online," he said.
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