The UK’s prime minister will levy landlines to fund roll out of superfast broadband to every home in the country by 2020.
Gordon Brown said the £0.50 (€0.56) per month fee would fund the Government’s stake in a public-private partnership designed to ensure fibre networks are deployed consistently throughout the country, during a speech in London yesterday.
Leaving the private sector to handle deployment “would open a lasting, pervasive, and damaging new digital divide,” by focusing more on profit than national interests, Brown said.
That national interest is connecting the 21% of UK adults Brown said have never accessed the Internet, and so are “trapped in a second-tier of citizenship.”
The prime minister also set out a £30 million plan to establish an Institute of Web Science, to be headed by Internet creator Sir Tim Berners Lee and scientist Professor Nigel Shadbolt.
Brown said the institute would help position the UK as a world leading researcher of semantic web and emerging internet technologies by 2020.
Achieving that goal would form part of Brown’s digital vision, where the Internet is used for news services including home-teaching, smart metering, and remote medical assistance, all services the prime minister believes are becoming as fundamental a human need as electricity supplies.
Other funding for Brown’s digital vision would be unveiled in the country’s budget on Wednesday, he said.
Those plans have already been outlined in the country’s controversial Digital Economy Bill, which is tipped to be pushed into law before parliament is dissolved ahead of a general election in May.
Changes to the bill faced a barrage of criticism from leading media firms earlier this month, after granting courts the right to cut-off persistent illegal file sharers and leaving little time for objections before being passed back to parliament.
The Conservative Party, the main political opposition in the country, has already pledged to roll-out 100Mbps broadband to the majority of UK homes, if it wins the forthcoming general election.