Government introduces Digital Economy Bill

The government has introduced the Digital Economy Bill to Parliament. The Bill forms part of the government’s ambition for the UK to be the most digital nation in the world.

The Bill will enable the building of world-class digital infrastructure including fast broadband and mobile networks; give consumers the power to connect to the digital networks, such as superfast broadband and 4G, that underpin our economy and society; reform the way government uses data to deliver public services; and strengthen protections for citizens in the digital world.

It has also been designed to pave the way for the introduction of a new Broadband Universal Service Obligation – giving all homes and businesses the legal right to have a fast connection installed if they request it, helping to make sure no-one is left behind. The Government aims for the speed to be set at 10Mbps initially, and the Bill will also include a power to direct Ofcom to review the speed over time to make sure it is still sufficient for modern life.

The Bill also includes clauses to improve the way government uses data to tailor public services. These clauses will break down costly barriers within the public sector through limited data sharing. This will help to alleviate fuel poverty, enable the delivery of seamless services through better access to civil registration data, tackle fraud and debt, and improve the UK’s research and statistics functions.

Lastly, the Bill will put in place a series of measures that will strengthen protections for citizens, helping to make the digital economy safer, fairer and more secure.

  • Protect children from online pornography by requiring age verification for access to all pornographic sites and applications; enforce penalties against spam emailers and nuisance callers unless you have given consent;
  • Increase the sentencing options for people who infringe copyright laws online, bringing sentences into line with the current penalties available for “physical infringement”;
  • Enable registered design owners to give notice of their rights more cheaply and flexibly. The Bill will allow businesses to mark their designs with web addresses as a means of flagging the registered design rights they hold.

Baroness Neville Rolfe, Minister for Intellectual Property, said: “I am very pleased that the Digital Economy Bill has been introduced. It includes a number of major intellectual property measures that will help boost our creative industries and protect their hard work.

“The Digital Economy Bill enables everyone to have the right to fast broadband, automatic compensation for consumers when telecoms suppliers don’t deliver as promised and tougher penalties for nuisance callers.”

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