Subtle Attacks

The Guardian reports:

A new 50p per month broadband tax is to be levied on every home and business with a phone line under government plans to raise up to £1.5bn to pay for the next generation of internet connections.

Even if you believe this is a role for the government this money could easily be diverted from more controversial schemes (insert your least favourite database here).

… [swathe about carving up the licence fee removed] …

“The licence fee must not become a slush fund to be dipped into at will, leading to spiralling demands on licence fee payers to help fund the political or commercial concerns of the day,” he said. “This would lead to the licence fee being seen as another form of general taxation.”

HA!

Carter stressed he is not advocating a reduction in the BBC’s licence fee […]. The National Audit Office believes the corporation could be sitting on a £250m surplus from the digital switchover fund.

“The case is made to make available public funding for the provision of news in the nations and regions,” said Carter. “It is our view that we have a funding mechanism for public content – it is called the TV licence fee.”

With the ‘digital switchover’ the licence fee is a relic and an even more unjustifiable tax – it has never been easier for the BBC to encode their transmissions and set up a subscription or micropayment system to restrict access and gain revenues.

Lord Carter’s 238-page report covers everything from combating internet piracy to setting a 2015 date for the switch to digital radio. Alongside the plan to get existing broadband – at 2Mb per second – to everyone in the UK by 2012, Carter took many in the industry by surprise by proposing the new 50p-a-month tax on all phone lines. That will raise between £150m and £175m a year which the government will make available to companies such as BT which want to push the next generation of internet networks, allowing consumers to download music in seconds and movies in a minute, to 90% of the UK population by 2017.

The ‘next generation’ broadband of now will be a previous generation by 2012, private companies will be subsidised to provide lesser technologies. No one, not least, the government has a clue how the internet(z) will be used in 2017 but I am sure it will NOT be ‘the same but faster’. Focussing private companies on deploying obsolete technologies when they could be engaged in R&D work to improve access actually distorts the natural improvement of technologies and should not be encouraged. The £6 a year tax is just a starting point and is already in discussion side by side with the TV licence fee – the obvious intention to be to create a broadband licence fee. Quite what the speed of downloading movies has got to do with the government is anybody’s guess.

Mirroring Gordon Brown’s recent appointment of Alan Sugar as enterprise champion, Carter also announced the appointment of Martha Lane Fox, one of the founders of travel site Lastminute.com, as his “champion for digital inclusion”, charged with persuading the 30% of households who are not online to get broadband access.

20th January
I have taken Inclusion. If I had been expecting an experience like that of Hoffman, when he accidentally took LSD-25 and unleashed the psychedelic revlution, I would have been disappointed. But, of course, I wasn’t, and was delighted.
[…] I found myself staring blankly at a Senior League Curling Championship, being broadcast from Peebles.

Will Self

That easily represents the extent of the Government’s ambitions about ‘inclusion’.

But the report was immediately attacked by shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt as “a colossal disappointment” and “digital dithering” as it will result in yet more discussions over the summer. “Where in all this is a single action?” he asked. “But there is one area in which this report has excelled itself: consultations. This is surely government of the management consultants, for the management consultants, by the management consultants.”

Quite except we do not want ‘action’ we want the Government not to act, not to commission these reports, not even to ‘consult’, just to remove themselves from what does not concern them.

The film and music industries also reacted angrily to what they saw as Carter’s half-hearted attempt to clamp down on people who illegally share copyrighted material over the internet. […] internet users could have their broadband connections slowed down or access to particular websites blocked after a year, although this is also up for further consultation.

Can’t work, won’t work. Consumers successfully rejected DRM and they will circumvent measures to restrict ‘unofficial’ downloading. ‘Slowing down connections’ shows that Lord Carter doesn’t consider the future of public/unsecured wi-fi to be relevant.

Recent research has shown that more than two-thirds of internet users would ignore warning letters, […].

Lavinia Carey, chair of Respect for Film and director general of the British Video Association, said: “As an alternative to legal action we advocate a more effective and proportionate approach, namely the prompt implementation of technical measures or ‘road humps’ for persistent infringers in order to make life difficult for them to continue to access content illicitly, while still enabling them to access other services such as email, banking and shopping sites.”

Hmmm, stay tuned and watch the inevitable fail.

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