The Digital Economy Bill is now law

The Digital Economy Bill received Royal Assent last week, which means sweeping changes in the way the public sector shares data are on their way

Posted 2 May 2017 by

A key piece of pre-Brexit IT-impacting legislation is now implemented – and you need to take notice if you are either a buyer or a seller of ICT into the public sector.

Among its many measures, the imminent Digital Economy Act (as it is now) will

  • give every UK  household “a legal right” to request a fast broadband connection
  • give consumers and businesses “better information about communication services, easier switching and automatic compensation if things go wrong”
  • cut the costs for new infrastructure and simplify planning rules
  • enable stronger enforcement of direct marketing laws
  • create civil penalties for online pornographers who do not verify the age of their customers, and ISP level blocking of non-compliant sites
  • help protect consumers from “bill shock” by requiring mobile network operators to offer a bill capping facility.

All these are part of a wider ambition by Westminster to empower consumers, build a better national tech and comms infrastructure “fit for the digital future”, enable better public services using digital technologies and provide important protections for citizens from spam email and nuisance calls (as well as restrictions to protect children from online pornography, which some civil liberties campaigners say are too restrictive).

When introduced last year, the Bill was said to be needed because, “If the UK is to remain ahead and be a world leader in the digital economy, we need to continue to raise our ambition and the Digital Economy Bill includes a range of measures in support of this.”

Peers and MPs are introduced other measures during the Bill’s debates.

These include powers to ensure that the Crown guarantee of BT pensions has the necessary flexibility to allow BT and Openreach to be separated, provision to tackle the problem of “bots” in the online secondary ticketing market, an extension of the public lending right to cover e-books, and rules to make sure on-demand television is accessible to people with disabilities.

Commenting on the Royal Assent finally having been granted to the Bill, Minister of State for Digital and Culture Matt Hancock claimed, “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.”