Government rushes Digital Economy Bill through parliament

The government has rushed the Digital Economy Bill through parliament, introducing provisions for a Universal Service Obligation that gives people the legal right to request broadband speed of a certain level.

That level has been set at 10 Mbps, despite House of Lords’ calls for the figure to be set at 30 Mbps.

The Bill also introduces measures to modernise the UK for enterprise. The measures have been designed to:

  • empower consumers and ensure everyone has access to broadband wherever they live
  • build a better infrastructure fit for the digital future
  • enable better public services using digital technologies
  • provide important protections for citizens from spam email and nuisance calls


Serious concerns

In a lively Commons debate, digital minister Matt Hancock commented that the government had “serious concerns” about whether the peers’ amendment was deliverable.

The government will ask Ofcom to review the minimum download speed once the take-up of superfast has reached 75%.

“That gives the assurance that any USO speed will be reconsidered once a substantial majority of subscribers are on superfast,” he said.

Louise Haigh, shadow digital minister, responded by saying: “Of course, we would have liked the government to back 30 Mbps for all, and I do not accept that millions of consumers and businesses should simply be left behind.”

“This was an opportunity to prepare the UK for the ubiquitous future demanded by the digital revolution, and although the government’s amendment is a first step, it is a baby step and nothing more.”

Commenting on the Bill becoming law, Hancock said: “This legislation will help build a more connected and stronger economy. The Act will enable major improvements in broadband rollout, better support for consumers, better protection for children on the Internet, and further transformation of government services.”

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