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Drop £20 broadband tax, urges Cumbria MP Rory Stewart

Penrith and The Border MP Rory Stewart wants the government to get rid of obstacles such as proposed £20 broadband connection tax that might slow delivery of broadband to rural communities such as his.

Penrith and The Border MP Rory Stewart wants the government to get rid of obstacles such as proposed £20 broadband connection tax that might slow delivery of broadband to rural communities such as his.

Stewart was speaking after a conference in Penrith to pitch Cumbria's case to be one of the pilot schemes that the government's action unit, Broadband Delivery UK, plans to kick off next year.

Stewart said he stood with community groups in lobbying against additional taxes on broadband. (See Stewart's video interview with Computer Weekly, here.)

In addition to taxes on income, UK network operators pay business taxes on fibre and copper networks, as well as radio masts. This is not the case in the UK's main economic competitors, the US and Europe, except for Ireland. The Valuation Office Agency recently proposed to levy a further £20 a year tax on all premises that get their broadband connection from a non-BT network.

"What we need is an environment that facilitates and encourages people to lay fibre and connect people to the internet. Although it's government policy (to tax fibre), personally that is something with which, as somebody pushing for community access to broadband, I disagree," Stewart told Computer Weekly.

Stewart said the issue was already being debated at the Treasury and the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

"My assessment is that in the long run, all these kinds of barriers are not a good thing," he said. "What we really want to do is to make it as easy and affordable as possible for these communities to connect to the internet."

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