Lord Carter's Digital Britain recommendations included an upgrade for digital radio, measures to improve mobile phone coverage and new efforts to tackle music and video software piracy. But it was the announcement of what critics are calling a 'broadband tax' that captured the most headlines.
The Digital Britain report, the most highly anticipated technology report to come from the government in years, recommends that every household in the UK with a landline connection pays 50p per month to fund the rollout of superfast broadband to 90 percent of the population by 2017.
Few computer users would argue against plans to lift Britain out of the digital dark ages, but judging by the uproar when the 50p-per-month broadband tax was announced, we're less keen for the money to pay for Broadband Britain to come out of our pockets. At press time, 60 percent of those who responded to our online poll said the initiative was an outrage.
Cable networks were built across the UK without the need for a cable tax, and satellite TV became widespread without a satellite tax, the critics say, so why should there be a tax for faster broadband?
The reality is that without massive investment, the next-generation Broadband Britain will never be a reality - and it's difficult to see how else this will be paid for
ISPs and industry bodies have claimed for years that broadband has become a utility - a service as indispensable in the home as water, electricity or gas. It's ridiculous, of course, to suggest high-speed internet access is up there with running water in terms of its necessity to our daily lives, but high-speed internet access is far from a luxury. We rely on it for communication and work, as well as pleasure. So, leaving aside the fact that the speeds the government is talking about are hardly bleeding-edge, the aspirations to have a nation of digital natives are commendable.
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Also commendable are Microsoft's plans to introduce free antivirus software. The product - called Security Essentials - is launching this summer, and a beta version was due to become available as we went to press.
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