IMPORTANT update, 12.01pm. After a successful campaign by MoneySavingExpert.com, the Government backed down from this proposal at 12:01pm, 1 April. Martin Lewis, creator of MoneySavingExpert.com, says: "We've battled hard since midnight to stop this foolish folly, and thankfully its been confirmed the web licence idea has been canned, as is should be."
Internet users have been dealt a huge blow after documents leaked to MoneySavingExpert.com reveal EVERYONE who browses the web will have to buy a yearly internet licence from next April, or face a hefty fine.
The likely £50/year licence will be imposed on anyone who accesses the internet, be it on a computer, mobile, tablet or via their TV.
The move will be a blow for hard-pressed consumers faced with rising bills across the board — already today, water bills, dental certificates and English prescriptions are all rising in price.
Closing the loophole
The Government, which it is believed to be set to announce full details tomorrow, is understood to want to introduce the licence partly to stop the growing number of people who are legally watching TV without a licence.
The rules state anyone who watches or records live TV, on a TV set, computer, tablet or mobile needs a TV licence. However, if you only watch on catch-up TV such as iPlayer or ITV Player, even if programmes are broadcast in advance of TV transmission, no licence is necessary (see the MSE TV licence guide for more information).
The current TV colour licence costs £145.50 a year, while a black and white one is set at £49.
As with the TV licence, you'll only need one internet licence per home. It's initially expected to be priced at a flat £50, and this will cover all devices within that property to access the internet — whether black and white or colour.
The new internet licensing company will have detector equipment and officers out and about which can tell whether or not you're using the internet. It can then check if you're registered on their system.
If you don't have an internet licence, but you're caught using the web outside of your workplace (which will also need a licence), you can be fined up to £1,000.
MoneySavingExpert to help its users with the fee
MoneySavingExpert.com creator Martin Lewis says: "The introduction of this internet licence is a disgrace. However, to help those who use our website a lot, we're considering a new scheme for regular users where we will contribute towards their web licence. This should help take some of the financial pressure off consumers looking to save cash.
"We're still working out the exact costs to determine who we'll be able to help, but hope to be able to provide an update by lunchtime today."
We contacted the Free Web Alliance. Its spokeswoman, Eileen Johnson, told us: "This whole thing is one massive joke. The internet has been free to use ever since it was founded, it's one of its binding principles. This is the thin end of the wedge."