By Jove, I think they've got it!

The Digital Scotland report makes for fascinating reading. And for someone who has been pursuing the fibre tax issue for nigh on a decade, pp 57-59 have put a grin on my face.

It starts with the opening sentences of the section headed “Rating of communications infrastructure – an obstacle to innovation”:
“299 We recommend that Scotland should remove the distortions in the rating of passive
communications infrastructure. These currently disadvantage small networks.”
(This is a point which appears to have escaped the regulator, VOA and successive governments so three cheers for Bonnie Scotland!)
The possible solutions presented are tiered relief with 100% relief for community and SME offerings, 100% relief to open access networks, or ….oh, joy, zero rating of fibre.
307 goes on to say: “We believe any relief should be available uniformly across the UK, in which case state aid issues would not arise. However, the issue has particular impact in Scotland because Scotland will require more fibre per head of population served, much of it serving otherwise isolated small communities. So Scotland should act independently if the UK will not……”
And the last sentence of 312 answers a question we have struggled to get to the bottom of for years:
“…….The UK treatment of fibre in non-domestic rates is highly distortionary, and indeed uniquely distortionary amongst the EU economies. No other EU country taxes lit fibre.
Which may explain why our altnets and utility company offerings have not sprung up as in other EU countries, and which the IDATE report this week clearly showed was the case elsewhere.
The final question I have not previously had an answer to, and which coincidentally came to my attention only 2 days ago via a different line of questioning, was published here on Computer Weekly – Briefing Note to Caio on Business Rates on Optical Fibre – some time ago. It is referenced in the Digital Scotland report under 311 and the figures deserve a read and cannot be ignored! It will be interesting to see if they are challenged ……..
I’m going to go and have a celebratory biscuit and then start googling for a croft!