What the Digital Economy Bill means for the UK tech channel

The Bill was introduced to Parliament with the promise to improve infrastructure for a digital future. PCR explores the Bill and the current political state of technology.

This Conservative Government’s introduction of snoopers charters and pornography filters has made for interesting reading and intriguing debate over the past few years. 

Now with the proposed Digital Economy Bill, the Government is looking to introduce more rules and sanctions to protect consumer rights and improve standards for businesses.

The Bill was introduced by Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey, who stated: “We want the UK to be a place where technology ceaselessly transforms the economy, society and government. 

“The measures in the Digital Economy Bill provide the necessary framework to make sure we can remain world leaders.”

One of the most radical parts of the Bill, which was first presented in the Queen’s speech to Parliament on May 18th, is a rule which guarantees monetary compensation from Internet Service Providers (ISPs) for users – both consumers and businesses – in the event of extended service loss. 

Along with this, the Bill will pave the way for a ‘Broadband Universal Service Obligation’ which aims to ensure that internet speeds are at least 10Mbps in an effort to catch up with Norway, who are currently Europe’s leaders for internet speeds, averaging at 21.3Mbps. The UK is currently 13th in the world for average internet speeds. 

Also featured prominently in the Bill is the reformed ‘Electronic Communications Code’ – the legislation underpinning the rollout of digital communications equipment. This will help drive investment in the UK’s digital infrastructure, by giving communication providers the ability to install equipment more efficiently, and with fewer regulatory hurdles.

This would perhaps be of most interest to value added resellers (VARs) who specialise in kitting out offices. The emphasis on ensuring speedy internet as a right for everyone in the country will mean that VARs will have a better platform on which to build IT equipment. 

The Bill also includes clauses to improve the way government uses data to tailor public services. These clauses look likely to go hand-in-hand with the aforementioned Snooper’s Charter that new British Prime Minister Theresa May championed while acting
as Home Secretary. 

Some might argue that what the Government frames as utilising data for the benefit of public services may lead to invasions of privacy.

The current political situation in the UK is currently volatile, mostly due to the Brexit (see page 15 for PCR’s full breakdown of how the UK’s withdrawal from the EU will affect the UK tech channel). 

In early July, Entanet penned an open letter to the new Prime Minister with calls to replace Vaizey with someone “who has the ability to understand the communications industry from a technical perspective”, stating that the incumbent Minister has “not been effective in this position due to a lack of experience”. Days later he was replaced by Matt Hancock.

It is apparent that we are in an age where the communication and tech sectors will be vital to the success of any economy going forward. 

Whether the policies are successful, popular or practical, that this conversation is being had by lawmakers is a good thing for the nation’s economy.

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