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Gov't to appoint new broadband minister?

Ed Vaizey thought to be among the candidates

The government looks set to appoint a broadband minister, according to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

The department told the BBC the appointment could be made "later this week".

According to Malcolm Corbett, chief executive of the Independent Network Co-operative Association (Inca), the appointment is necessary to ensure plans for UK broadband remain on track.

"We need to appoint a minister as quickly as possible. Without it UK broadband risks drifting and that is not a good thing for UK competitiveness," Corbett told the BBC.

"Ed Vaizey would be a good bet as he is on top of the issues," added Corbett, referring to the current culture minister who is thought to be a potential candidate.

It is expected the broadband minister will take responsibility for the roll-out of 2Mbps internet access across the country.

However, the government still has to finalise how the roll-out of country-wide 2Mbps will be funded.

Under the previous government, a 'broadband tax' which would have seen Brits with a home phone line charged a £6 per year levy was proposed.

However, the Conservative Party was heavily against the tax, instead believing the TV Licence Fee and private investors should cover the cost of rolling out fibre-optic broadband.

As a result, the broadband tax was one of three proposed charges dumped from the Finance Bill before Parliament was dissolved on 12 April in preparation for the General Election.

It is currently unknown whether the Liberal Democrats, which formed a coalition government with the Conservatives this week, will back the plan.

Simon Piper from Consumerchoices said: "While Labour's £6 per year broadband tax policy had many flaws and detractors, the government has now found itself in a situation where it needs to find an alternative, and fast."

Piper said that with the government's number one priority being to pull the UK out of recession it doesn't seem fair to expect ISPs and privately funded schemes to shoulder the responsibility for funding the roll-out of 2Mbps broadband.

"While the Conservative policy will save the tax payer money it could be detrimental to business if the cost is swallowed from that side alone. It will be interesting to see where the Liberal Democrats stand."

See also: Govt backtracks on 2Mbps broadband promise


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