The Queen’s speech outlined a number of measures that are a part of the Government’s Digital Economy Bill, which aims to make the UK “a world leader in digital provision – a place where technology ceaselessly transforms the economy, society and government”.
The main benefits of the Bill are: to enable the building of world-class digital infrastructure including fast broadband and mobile networks; support new digital industries; reform the way government uses data to deliver public services; and, strengthen protections for citizens in the digital world. In addition, the bill aims to make it a legal right for all UK citizens to have access to a fast broadband connection, to ensure that “everyone is a part of the digital economy”.
“Measures will be brought forward to create the right for every household to access high speed broadband. Legislation will be introduced to … make the United Kingdom a world leader in the digital economy,” the Queen said.The bill will introduce a new Broadband Universal Service Obligation to give all citizens and businesses the legal right to have a fast broadband connection installed. “The Government expects the minimum speed to be at least 10Mbps initially, and the Bill would also include a power to direct Ofcom to review the speed over time to make sure it is still sufficient for modern life,” states the bill.
The accompanying notes to the bill state that the publicly funded Superfast Broadband Programme has already ensured that coverage has been extended to an extra four million homes. “A Universal Service Obligation set at 10Mbps could still benefit up to one million UK premises who might otherwise be left behind,” it adds.
Furthermore, the bill will give greater power to telecoms regulator Ofcom, including:
- The ability to order communications providers to release data (such as customer complaints and broadband speeds data) to give consumers clear household-level information about broadband speeds from different providers, to help them make informed choices.
- New measures to make switching providers easier for consumers by allowing Ofcom to require communications companies to coordinate switches on behalf of customers. This would mean consumers would only have to deal with their new provider in order to switch.
- A new right for consumers to automatic compensation when things go wrong with their broadband service.
Further powers to protect intellectual property are also included in the bill, as well as the provision of greater access by government to data and digital services in order to “deliver better public services and produce world-leading research and statistics”.
The bill also aims to provide greater protection for consumers from spam email and nuisance calls by ensuring consent is obtained for direct marketing, and to introduce greater protection for children from online pornography by requiring age verification for access to all sites containing pornographic material.