House of Lords Library

Digital Economy Bill: Briefing for Lords Stages

Published Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Digital Economy Bill is scheduled to receive its second reading in the House of Lords on 13 December 2016. The Bill aims to enable access to fast digital communication services for citizens and businesses; to enable investment in digital communications infrastructure; to shape the emerging digital world to the benefit of children, consumers and businesses; and to support the digital transformation of government, enabling the delivery of better public services, world leading research and better statistics. This House of Lords Library briefing gives an overview of the provisions of the Bill. It focuses measures concerning the introduction of a broadband universal service obligation; protection for children from online pornography; public sector data sharing; the BBC and public service broadcasters. It outlines the policy background in those areas, and a summary of some of the key amendments made to the Bill during committee and report stages in the House of Commons.

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The Digital Economy Bill was introduced in the House of Commons on 5 July 2016, and completed its final stages on 28 November 2016. It was introduced in the House of Lords on 29 November 2016. The Bill consists of seven parts:

  • Part 1 introduces a broadband universal service obligation, entitling consumers to a minimum speed; provides Ofcom with powers to set general conditions that require communication providers to adhere to specified processes in order to facilitate customers changing communications providers on request; and gives Ofcom powers to require communications providers to pay compensation to consumers in certain circumstances.
  • Part 2 repeals the existing Electronic Communications Code and inserts a new code; it also provides Ofcom with powers to regulate “dynamic spectrum access”.
  • Part 3 introduces age verification for online pornography with penalties for non-compliance. It enables the regulator to notify payment service providers and ancillary services of those in breach of the provisions, and provides the regulator with the power to direct internet service providers to block access by persons in the UK to prohibited material.
  • Part 4 updates intellectual property rules for digital industries.
  • Part 5 makes provision for 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.
  • Part 6 introduces a new statutory code for direct marketing; makes Ofcom responsible for the regulation of all BBC activities; and transfers to the BBC from the Secretary of State the ability to make concessions on TV licences relating to age.
  • Part 7 makes provision for the commencement of the Bill’s provisions and sets out the territorial extent and application in the UK of each of the measures.

Lords Library notes LLN-2016-0067

Author: Sarah Tudor

Topics: Broadcasting, Internet and cybercrime, Telecommunications

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The House of Lords Library delivers research and information services to Members and staff of the House in support of parliamentary business.