Swedish ISP hits back over TV licence fees
Published: 25 Jan 2013 17:01 GMT+01:00
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"If you have a computer, why should you have to pay TV fees?" Jon Karlung, CEO of Bahnhof, the largest independent ISP company in Sweden, asked The Local.
"A computer's primary function is not to play television. People should have a choice if they as an individual want a particular service."
Karlung's indignation comes following a move announced earlier this week by Sveriges Television (SVT) to offer its full broadcast schedule online via digitally streaming service SVT Play.
But the shift to allow the broadcaster's complete line-up to be viewed online means that Swedes who own computers and tablet devices will have to start paying television licence fees.
Currently, anyone with a television receiver is required by law to pay the 2,076 kronor ($320) annual fee, which is collected and enforced by Radiotjänst, a division of Swedish public service broadcasting.
Radiotjänst collects some 7 billion kronor ($1.09 billion) per annum which is used to part-finance Sveriges Television, Sveriges Radio and Utbildningsradio (UR).
Traditionally, the fee has only been charged to television owners, and Karlung thinks it's unfair that Bahnhof's customers might be forced to pay the fee.
"People are pissed off because they feel they shouldn't be charged for something they don't want," Karlung said.
As a result, Bahnhof launched what it calls the "TV Stopper" to block SVT's digitally streamed content from people's computers.
"We filter out the traffic, then provide an official certificate specifying that the client has had no access whatsoever to SVT," Karlung explained.
He believes many of Bahnhof's computer-owning customers will appreciate being able to avoid the annual fee, including foreign students who may not be interested in SVT and often don't have the budget to pay the licence fee.
While he admits he can't give a 100 percent guarantee that the certificate will suffice for users looking to avoid the charges, Karlung is confident it will work.
"We've tested the product in the launch and it works," he told The Local.
"Now it's just a matter of getting people's voices heard."