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Internet service providers (ISPs) must not be taxed for laying fibre-optic broadband cables, if the digital divide is to be bridged, one politician has claimed.

Speaking to Computer Weekly, Penrith and The Border MP Rory Stewart said the proposed £20 broadband connection tax may delay the delivery of high-speed broadband to areas of the countryside.

He explained that even before this levy - charged against every home connected to a next-generation network - UK operators already pay business taxes on fibre and copper networks, and radio masts.

"What we need is an environment that facilitates and encourages people to lay fibre and connect people to the internet," Mr Stewart claimed.

"Although it's government policy [to tax fibre], personally that is something with which, as somebody pushing for community access to broadband, I disagree."

He said that in the long run, putting obstacles in the way of wider broadband coverage is "not a good thing".

The Con-Lib coalition aims to make 2Mb broadband available nationwide, including in the majority of rural areas, by 2015.

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