VIEW FROM THE HOUSE
GIVEN the growth in digital communications, access to high speed broadband is increasingly considered as one of the utility services – as essential to households as the traditional services like water, drainage, electricity and gas.
Our county council like many others has implemented plans to improve broadband coverage. Nationally, more than 90 per cent of premises are now able to connect to superfast broadband. The target is to reach 95 per cent of premises by the end of 2017.
During September, the Digital Economy Bill was debated in the House of Commons. This would bring about a Universal Service Obligation (USO), so every premise in the country would have access to broadband at a speed of 10Mbps as an absolute minimum by the end of this Parliament in 2020.
At this speed it is possible for a household to watch video on demand, use social media, work from home or shop online.
Naturally ministers are well aware that developments in digital technology are happening fast, so this is not a static target. It will be kept under review so that it can keep pace with constituents’ needs. The broadband USO would enable consumers to have the legal right to request an affordable broadband connection of a minimum specified speed, from a designated universal service provider, irrespective of where they live or work.
Ofcom, the regulatory body, is working on the details of how the USO will work and is going to report by the end of this year.
The Digital Economy Bill is intended to support new digital industries as well as enabling the building of world-class digital infrastructure (including mobile networks as well as fast broadband). Protecting intellectual property is important, as is allowing registered design owners to give notice of their rights, more cheaply and flexibly.
Protecting individuals is also essential. Many parents are worried about how easy it is for their children to access harmful sites (such as pornography providers), so there would be civil sanctions to guard against this.
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