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BSG mulls support for Vtesse on network rates

The Broadband Stakeholders Group (BSG) will meet next week to discuss whether to support Vtesse Networks' petition to the Supreme Court to hear an appeal against a Valuation Office Agency assessment for taxes on its fibre network.

Vtesse lost an appeal against the assessment in a split decision by appeal court judges and was refused leave to appeal.

Vtesse CEO Aidan Paul said the company would petition the Supreme Court directly. He had "taken heart" from Lord Justice Sedley's statement that there was arguably a gross disparity in BT's favour between the rateable value of its and Vtesse's cables.

BSG CEO Antony Walker said the group would review the judgment. He said it had distanced itself from the Vtesse case because it was already in discussions with the VOA over business rates.

Walker said these talks had been held up by the Vtesse case, but he expected to meet VOA officials within the month.

He said the BSG was expecting the VOA to say how it would rate a number of possible network configurations put forward by the BSG. This would provide more clarity on the underlying problems with rating fibre, he said.

The BSG would then be able to provide a considered recommendation about reviewing the business rate system with respect to networks, he said.

"We understand this is complicated for government, not least because of the way the VOA works in practice," Walker said.

BSG and the VOA have been discussing the issue at least since 2004. Late last, year the Conservative Party promised to review business rates on communications networks if it came to power.


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