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Commons Library analysis of the Digital Economy Bill

Published Friday, September 9, 2016

The Digital Economy Bill 2016-17 [Bill no. 45] was published on 6 July 2016 and its First Reading in the House of Commons took place that day. Its Second Reading is scheduled for Tuesday 13 September 2016.

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The Digital Economy Bill 2016-17 [Bill no. 45] was published on 6 July 2016 and its First Reading in the House of Commons took place that day. Its Second Reading is scheduled for Tuesday 13 September 2016.

The Bill, and its explanatory notes, are available on the Parliamentary website. Factsheets and impact assessments are available from the .Gov website.

The Bill would implement a number of Government policies, broadly related to the digital economy. It:

  • covers the provision of fast broadband services through a new ‘Universal Broadband Obligation’ entitling consumers to a minimum speed, enhances switching and compensation for communication services, and a new Electronic Communications Code to deal with phone and internet infrastructure, making the roll-out of new infrastructure cheaper and subject to simplified regulation;
  • provides for greater data sharing between public bodies for certain purposes and in certain circumstances. Datasets may be shared to support public service delivery and in relation to public sector debt and fraud, and to produce research and official statistics. There are also specific provisions for sharing data related to civil registration;
  • updates intellectual property rules for digital industries;
  • introduces age verification for online pornography with penalties for non-compliance;
  • introduces a new statutory code for direct marketing to strengthen enforcement action;
  • updates the regulation of the BBC by making OFCOM responsible for the regulation of all BBC activities; the Bill also transfers to the BBC from the Secretary of State the ability to make concessions on TV licences relating to age (following the transfer of the cost of free over-75 licences).

Following the publication of the Bill the then Minister for the Digital Economy, Ed Vaizey, said:

We want the UK to be a place where technology ceaselessly transforms the economy, society and government. The UK has always been at the forefront of technological change, and the measures in the Digital Economy Bill provide the necessary framework to make sure we remain world leaders.

A Commons Library Briefing Paper provides a general overview of the digital economy and related statistics (Digital economy: statistics and policy). The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee reported on the digital economy in July 2016 (on the industry generally rather than the provisions of this Bill).

The Government have said they expect the Bill to be considered in the Commons and Lords in the last part of 2016.

The Bill extends to the whole of the UK with two exceptions: sharing data in relation to civil registration does not apply in Scotland and Northern Ireland, while the provisions for sharing energy supplier data do not apply in Northern Ireland.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7699

Authors: Edward Potton; Lorna Booth; Daniel Rathbone; Lorraine Conway; Catherine Fairbairn; Sally Lipscombe; Antony Seely; Philip Ward; John Woodhouse

Topics: Broadcasting, Information technology, Internet and cybercrime, Telecommunications

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