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UK Comms Review Published as Public Broadband Funding Tops £1.6bn

Tuesday, Jul 30th, 2013 (1:56 pm) - Score 329

The government has today published a new policy paper for its much delayed Communications Bill which, among other things, sets out new powers to help Ofcom regulate the internet, telecoms and media sectors. Everything from tackling online piracy to the national broadband rollout is covered.

The original bill, which was first announced during mid-2011 (here), began its life alongside a “wide-ranging review” of the 2003 Communications Act. The first Draft was originally expected to be published before April 2013 but various delays with different proposals (e.g. ISP porn filters, measures to tackle internet piracy etc.) conspired to push it back.

As expected today’s paper broadly regurgitates all the government’s various policy announcements from the past few months and as a result there’s not a great deal of fresh content to be found within its 52 pages (quite short by government standards). But it’s arguably what the paper doesn’t include that might be of most interest.

For example, the once mooted Voluntary Code that would have required big broadband ISPs to block 100+ of the most prolific internet piracy facilitating websites now appears to be off the table because the government are satisfied that the court order (injunction) process appears to be working well. But some changes have been proposed to speed this up.

Comms Bill Review – Site Blocking

Copyright owners are now increasingly using s97A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to tackle infringing sites by seeking injunctions that require ISPs to block access, for example, to The Pirate Bay.

This takes time and money, but with more cases the court procedure is becoming increasingly streamlined, and that means that we have been able to announce that we will remove legislation that largely duplicates these provisions from the statute book.”

Elsewhere the paper calls for Ofcom to ensure that ISPs make their Traffic Management policies more transparent and warns that the regulator could, if necessary, use its statutory powers to require that internet providers make their policies more transparent (research is currently being conducted to help inform this decision).

As expected the paper also warns that it will “legislate to give Ofcom a duty to ensure a consistent and effective experience for consumers switching between bundles“, which again isn’t surprising since Ofcom will this summer post their proposals for an easier broadband and phone switching process (here).

The recent proposals for ISPs and 90% of public wifi operators to adopt network-level filters, which would be used to block porn and other “adult content” online (here), have also been included but we couldn’t see anything new beyond what has already been reported.

One final aspect of interest might be the claim that £1.6 billion of public funds have so far been committed to “support private investment and extend superfast broadband to 95% of UK premises by 2017“, which is curiously a lot higher than the recent figure of £1.2bn from the government’s latest Spending Review (here).

After a bit of digging though we noted that the £1.6bn actually included funding from the central government, devolved administrations and crucially also local authorities (e.g. match funding commitments from councils). The latter reflects most of the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) contracts that have been announced so far (more than a quarter of these have yet to be signed but they should be done within the next few months).

The full policy statement can be read below but, as we state above, it should really be taken more as a summary of what we already know from recent announcements. Under the original plans the government hoped to get its Comms Bill (not to be confused with the Home Offices separate and semi-defunct Comms Data Bill [internet snooping]) implemented by 2015 and it would then support the sector for the next 10 years or more.

The Comms Bill Policy Paper (PDF)

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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