Last week the Valuation Office Agency put out revised guidelines for assessing rateable values for fibre connections.
There is no change at the high end so the likes of Virgin and BT will remain unaffected. However at the smaller network end of the scale there has been a massive price hike.
In 2005 if you were running a pair of fibres over 1km you would be stung with a rateable value of £280. In 2010 this has now shot up to £2000. This will not of course affect BT because they have a negotiated total rateable value for their network.
The upshot of this is that at a time when industry has been crying out for a level “rates” playing field the VOA has made it an even more unequal commercial battle in favour of the large incumbent operators.
I realise that running a country is a complex job but this complexity means that we need to have people doing it that understand the issues. You can’t on the one hand say that you are trying to promote Digital Inclusion with “Big Society” projects and flag waving and on the other hand make it harder for the people who you are trying to help to help themselves.
The VOA has no interest in the Big Society. The government does. The government should be providing the VOA with better direction here.
Minister for Communications, Culture and the Creative Industries, Ed Vaizey has made a statement to accompany the VOA announcement:
“I welcome the work that VOA has been doing with industry. These new guidelines will offer much greater clarity for businesses that invest in broadband networks and give them the opportunity to feed their views to the VOA.
VOA has made it clear that they welcome evidence from the industry to enable the Agency to maintain a fair and accurate rating for this important market, which is a priority for the coalition Government.
I hope that industry will take the opportunity to study this new guidance and to engage constructively with VOA for the benefit of consumers and businesses throughout the country.”
What Ed Vaizey is saying is this is his stake in the ground. I hereby invite readers to comment here to build up a body of material that shows this rating system is not going to work. Vtesse Networks and others have already been trying to hammer home the message. Lets see if we can make it a bigger hammer.