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TalkTalk: Home Access Scheme shows government's "muddled thinking"

ISP says other initiatives will foce low-income families off the web

UK ISP TalkTalk has labelled plans to provide 270,000 disadvantage families with free broadband and laptops as "muddled thinking".

Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced today that following a successful trial of the Home Access Scheme, which saw 20,000 families in Oldham and Suffolk provided with a free laptop and broadband access for a year, the initiative will be rolled out to the rest of the UK.

To qualify, homes must earn £15,500 per year or be on income support. Once the year is up, the disadvantaged families will be allowed to keep the laptop, but will have to fun the internet connection themselves.

"No-one would dispute that getting low income families online is a good thing. But the Government's other initiatives are working to discourage uptake and make internet access unaffordable for hundreds of thousands of other families," Andrew Heaney, executive director of strategy and regulation at TalkTalk, said.

Heaney was referring to the 'Broadband tax', which was unveiled by the Chancellor Alistair Darling, in last month's pre-budget report.

The tax will see families with a telephone line forking out an extra £6 per year, which will be used in the Next Generation Fund that aim to upgrade the UK's aging copper network to fibre, in a bid to bring 2Mbps internet access to everyone in the UK.

TalkTalk said the additional burden of the broadband tax along with plans to prosecute illegal downloaders, which will be funded by the government, could lead to 600,000 financially stretched families being forced to give up their broadband connections.

"We've always said that the phone tax is regressive and unfair and this latest announcement - for all its superficial appeal - demonstrates the inconsistency in the government's approach rather well," explained Heaney.

"This tax is not about getting people onto broadband - it is about taxing everyone to allow the relatively well-off in rural areas to get super-fast speeds."

Broadband speed test

See also: TalkTalk slams "misguided" Bono for net piracy comments

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