Every landline, according to new plans just announced, will be taxed to the tune of £6 each year to help pay for the expansion of high-speed internet, in particular across rural areas.
In the current political temperature, adding a new tax onto anything is never going to result in anything other than a negative headline and reaction. But this is not a bad policy.
For the equivalent of 50p a month, we can, as a nation, help invest in what for some will be a vital and welcome tool which we all have come to expect as standard. Gordon compared it to being as important as electricity and running water, which is over-egging and already over-egged pudding, but the internet should not be out of reach (literally, or otherwise) for any UK citizen.
Taxes are going to have to rise. Cuts are going to have to be made. While this scheme will not fund the whole project of getting every corner of the UK 'connected', it is not a significant amount to pay. Some may argue that if you choose to live in the countryside, you choose the lifestyle and the limitations that come with it and presently, good internet access is about as scarce as a bus in some of these remote areas. Without wanting to sound like an Oxfam fundraising chugger, "for less than one pound a month, you could give these ruralites the chance to watch porn", it is not too much to ask. It is also, a tax you can opt out of. Nowadays, few of my friends even have a landline - we all use mobiles. If you don't want to pay the tax, you always have the option of opting out. A blind rise in income tax to cover the various extras that will need to be funded would have been a much more contentious (and arguably, unfair) way of addressing such matters. Instead, 'you pay for what you enjoy' forms of temporary taxation make you appreciate why you're paying the extra.
It's like the complaining that goes on about Jonathan Ross's salary. If you asked the millions of people who arrange their Friday schedule to watch his show, if they would mind paying an extra 50p per week on top of the TV licence to fund his wages...you'd more than make your money back on his salary because he is worth that extra money...people will pay because they know quality when they see it.
Would you pay an extra 50p per month to have a landline? The majority of people would say yes.
This is a policy that will invest a lot of money (admittedly, not enough to do the whole job) in bringing more oppportunities to the rural dwellers of our fair land.
Think of the benefit for farmers and local produce makers. They will be offered opportunites never before available to them. Think of the resources that would be a touch away to school kids in rural schools, that was not available before.
This is the point of the policy, and to be honest, this is the point of taxes in general. It's a good policy with the right aims. People will slam it for a number of reasons, mainly kicking a man when he's down, but headline's over 50p per month? Pah!