Digital Economy Bill

Digital Economy Bill, House of Lords, Third Reading, 29 March 2017

Key messages

  • The Government's proposed creation of a broadband Universal Service Order (USO) as a safety net for those residents and businesses not connected is a positive development. The LGA has worked with the Government and Parliament to raise councils' on-going concerns over residents' lack of access to fast and reliable broadband, especially in rural areas.
  • Access to fast and reliable digital connectivity is a necessity for households and businesses in the UK and is a major driver behind growth, jobs and the emerging creative industries. It is essential the USO is implemented as quickly as possible to ensure all residents in the UK have access to a minimum standard of connection.
  • We would like the Government to require the USO to specify minimum download and upload speeds to be made available to every household in the UK by 2020. We broadly supported an amendment to the Bill which obliges the USO to specify minimum speeds. However, in our view the USO's long-term performance requirements are best outlined by the Government in secondary legislation, not in the Bill.

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Digital Economy Bill House of Lords, Third Reading 29 March 2017


Digital Economy Bill, House of Lords, Report Stage, 22 February 2017

Key messages

  • Amendment 1 to Clause 1, tabled by Lord Mendelsohn, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, Lord Fox and Lord Clement-Jones, will require the broadband Universal Service Order (USO) to specify minimum download and upload speeds to be made available in every household in the United Kingdom by 2020. We support this idea, and we are calling for minimum download speeds to increase in line with national average speeds, and for obligations on upload speeds to be included in the USO. However, in our view the USO's long-term performance requirements are best outlined by the Government in secondary legislation, not in the Bill.
  • We support Amendment 3 to Clause 1, tabled by Baroness Janke, Lord Fox and Lord Clement-Jones, to require the provision of a broadband social tariff in order to meet the obligations of the broadband USO. We are calling for the Government to put in place a social tariff to ensure a basic service of at least 10Mbps is available at an affordable price to those most in need, and to prevent further digital exclusion.
  • We support Amendment 4 to insert New Clause, "Annual report to Parliament", tabled by Lord Fox and Lord Foster of Bath, to ensure that Parliament receives full details of Ofcom's annual reports on the implementation of the broadband USO, in order to improve the transparency of the rollout of the USO.
  • Clause 87 will provide publicly-funded basic digital skills training free of charge to qualifying adults in England. We welcome the Government's commitment to upskill people with basic digital skills training. However, the new training will be funded by the existing Adult Education Budget (AEB), which already suffers from limited resources. It is crucial that the Government provides clarity as to how this programme will be funded, and should ensure the AEB has adequate additional funding to match the new commitment.

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LGA Briefing - Digital Economy Bill, House of Lords, Report Stage, 22 February 2017


Digital Economy Bill, House of Lords, Committee Stage, 31 January 2017
Key messages

  • Amendment 2 to Clause 1, tabled by Lord Fox and Lord Clement-Jones, will require the broadband Universal Service Order (USO) to specify minimum download and upload speeds to be made available in every household in the United Kingdom by 2020. We support this idea. We are calling for minimum download speeds to increase in line with national average speeds, and for obligations on upload speeds to be included in the USO. However, in our view the USO's long-term performance requirements are best outlined by the Government in secondary legislation, not in the Bill.
  • We support Amendment 4 to Clause 1, tabled by Baroness Janke and Lord Clement-Jones, to require the provision of a broadband social tariff in order to meet the obligations of the broadband USO. We are calling for the Government to put in place a social tariff to ensure a basic service of at least 10Mbps is available at an affordable price to those most in need, and to prevent further digital exclusion.
  • We support Amendment 8 to Clause 1, tabled by Lord Fox and Lord Foster of Bath, to compel Ofcom to report annually on the implementation of the broadband USO, in order to improve the transparency of the rollout of the USO.

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Digital Economy Bill, House of Lords, Committee Stage, 31 January 2017


House of Lords, Second Reading 13 December 2016

Key messages

The Universal Service Obligation (Clause 1)

  • The Government's proposed creation of a broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO) as a safety net for those residents and businesses not connected is a positive development. The LGA has worked with the Government and Parliament to raise councils' ongoing concerns over residents' lack of access to fast and reliable broadband.
  • While the recent announcement in the Autumn Statement of new investment for digital infrastructure is good news, the Government must not lose sight of the needs of communities, particularly in rural areas, already struggling to receive a basic broadband service.
Switching providers (Clause 2)
  • We support the Government's ambitions to empower consumers to more easily switch providers to help reduce household bills and encourage price competition in the market. As part of this, Ofcom should explore the viability of collective switching initiatives in the communications market.
Consumer compensation (Clause 3)
  • We welcome moves to allow consumers to receive compensation when their broadband services are below standard. The compensation process should be as simple as possible and the ultimate obligation to resolve issues should be on providers. To prevent residents and businesses suffering from long term broadband outages, the Bill should be amended to include a specific obligation for providers to fix faults with connections within appropriate timescales.

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Digital Economy Bill House of Lords, Second Reading 13 December 2016


House of Commons, Report Stage and Third Reading, Monday 28 November 2016

Key messages

The Universal Service Obligation (Clause 1)

  • The Government's proposed creation of a broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO) as a safety net for those residents and businesses not connected is a positive development. The LGA has worked with the Government and Parliament to raise councils on-going concerns over residents' lack of access to fast and reliable broadband, especially in rural areas.
  • Access to fast and reliable digital connectivity is a necessity for households and businesses in the UK and is a major driver behind growth, jobs and the emerging creative industries. It is essential the USO is implemented as quickly as possible to ensure all residents in the UK have access to a minimum standard of connection.
  • A 10Mbps minimum download speed is a step in the right direction. In the longer term standards must keep pace with national average speeds and the expectations of households, especially at peak times.
  • Download speed should only be one of a basket of indicators the USO must meet. The USO specification should obligate suppliers to provide consistent uploads speeds at a minimum of 2Mbps with the aim of doubling that figure over the next 10 years.
  • We would like to see a new clause in the Bill to include a reporting function which would compel the Government to report annually on the progress, success and take up of the USO.

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LGA Briefing - Digital Economy Bill - House of Commons, Report Stage and Third Reading, 28 November 2016


House of Commons Public Bill Committee, Thursday 20 October 2016

Key messages

  • We support Amendment 84 to Clause 3 tabled by Louise Haigh MP and Kevin Brennan MP which would see this Bill include a specific obligation for providers to fix faults with connections within appropriate timescales. We expect the Government to lay this down in secondary legislation and as an example of an appropriate timescale, Ofcom compel Openreach as a minimum over the course of a given year to complete "around 80 per cent" of fault repairs within two working days of being notified.
  • We support Amendment 60 to Clause 3 tabled by Calum Kerr MP which would require a communications provider to allow an end-user to terminate a contract on repeatedly failing to meet a specific standard or obligation. At present, broadband providers can voluntarily agree to sign up to a Code of Practice that commits them to allowing customers to cancel a contract should their download speed fall consistently below a pre-agreed standard. We agree this protection for consumers should be in statute.
  • We support New Clause 10 tabled by Louise Haigh MP and Kevin Brennan MP which would ensure an open procurement process is held in respect of the allocation of the USO. We have called for the USO to be delivered by multiple providers, split across regions, to ensure competition at a local level. We agree that any procurement process should be as open and transparent as possible.
  • The provisions set out in New Clause 26 tabled by the Minister of State for Digital and Culture, Matt Hancock MP would ensure that courses of study for qualifications in information technology are free of charge for persons in England aged 19 or over. The Government's commitment to upskill people with basic digital skills training is a step in the right direction. Any new training requirements should be matched by additional funding from central Government. The courses should also be locally routed and commissioned.

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LGA briefing - Digital Economy Bill House of Commons Public Bill Committee, Thursday 20 October 2016


House of Commons Public Bill Committee, Tuesday 18 October

Key messages

  • We support Amendment 82 tabled by Louise Haigh MP and Kevin Brennan MP which would insert a new clause in the Bill to include a reporting function which would compel the Government to report annually on the progress, success and take up of the Universal Service Obligation (USO). It is essential the USO is implemented as quickly as possible to ensure all residents in the UK have access to a minimum standard of connection. This amendment would provide transparency over the scale of the rollout of the USO, and allow providers to be held to account on providing estimates and connections to premises.
  • We support Amendment 84 to Clause 3 tabled by Louise Haigh MP and Kevin Brennan MP which would see this Bill include a specific obligation for providers to fix faults with connections within appropriate timescales. We expect the Government to lay this down in secondary legislation and as an example of an appropriate timescale, Ofcom compel Openreach as a minimum over the course of a given year to complete "around 80 per cent" of fault repairs within two working days of being notified.1
  • We support Amendment 56 to Clause 1 tabled by Calum Kerr MP which would ensure guidance relating to the USO contains details about upload and download speeds. The USO specification should obligate suppliers to provide consistent uploads speeds at a minimum of 2Mbps with the aim of doubling that figure over the next 10 years.

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LGA Briefing - Digital Economy Bill House of Commons, Public Bill Committee, 18 October 2016


House of Commons, Second Reading 13 September 2016

Key messages

  • Part 1, Clause 1: The Government's proposed creation of a broadband Universal Service Obligation (‘USO') as a safety net for those residents and businesses not connected is a positive development. Access to fast and reliable digital connectivity is a necessity for households and businesses in the UK and is a major driver behind growth, jobs and the emerging creative industries.
  • Part 1, Clause 2: We support the Government's ambitions to empower consumers to more easily switch providers to help reduce household bills and encourage price competition in the market. As part of this, Ofcom should explore the viability of collective switching initiatives in the communications market.
  • Part 1, Clause 3: We welcome moves to allow consumers to receive compensation when their broadband services are below standard. The compensation process should be as simple as possible and the ultimate obligation to resolve issues should be on providers. To prevent residents and businesses suffering from long term broadband outages, the Bill should be amended to include a specific obligation for providers to fix faults with connections within appropriate timescales.
  • Part 2: We support the revision of the Electronic Communications Code to simplify the process of installing or upgrading digital infrastructure. It is important commercial operators work in partnership with councils, who maintain the best overview of local areas' digital connectivity needs, to find the most viable locations for new infrastructure and ensure communities are properly engaged.

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LGA Briefing - Digital Economy Bill House of Commons, Second Reading, 13 September 2016

 

27 March 2017