The UK channel has given a lukewarm reception to the Digital Economy Bill laid out in the Queen's Speech today, with some saying although they welcome the measures, they are coming too late.
In the State Opening of Parliament today, the Queen said "legislation will be introduced to improve Britain's competitiveness and make the UK a world leader in the digital economy."
In separate documents providing more information on the measures laid out by the Queen, the government said the Digital Economy Bill will "make the UK a world leader in digital provision – a place where technology ceaselessly transforms the economy, society and government".
It aims to do this through a number of measures, including:
- Enabling the building of world-class digital infrastructure including fast broadband and mobile networks
- Supporting digital industries
- Reforming the way the government uses data for public services
- Strengthening protections for citizens in the digital world
- Rolling out universal broadband and better mobile connections to ensure everyone is connected
The broadband pledge is among the most significant aspects of the Digital Economy Bill, introducing a new Broadband Universal Service Obligation which gives all businesses and people the legal right to have fast broadband installed. The minimum speed would be 10Mbps to begin with, said the government.
Lawrence Jones, chief executive of UK hosting firm UKFast, said he had mixed feelings about the plans.
"I welcome the progress being made in the Digital Economy Bill and the promotion of internet use for people and businesses through these measures," he said. "The plans to boost mobile and 4G signal are key, although I'd say it's coming a little late. How many lost working hours can be put down to a lack of connectivity on these trains? It must be hundreds of thousands a year. So it's key for our businesses to address these connectivity issues."
Paul Evans, CEO of broadband firm Boosty, is sceptical about the plans.
"Today's legislation will see Ofcom impose service providers with a Universal Service Obligation to deliver minimum broadband speeds of 10Mbps, but will it actually happen?" he asked. "The policy will need to be stringently enforced, as it aims to hold to account service providers that continue to deliver substandard broadband.
"Realistically, even if the government's plans are pushed through, it could still take up to five or six years to roll out superfast fibre broadband. By then the broadband infrastructure may not be sufficient to support a new generation of digital services."
But Cisco – which itself has invested millions of pounds in the UK economy in a bid to boost its digital credentials – welcomed the moves.
UK chief technology officer Alison Vincent said the measures are essential to ensure modern businesses can keep up.
"We estimate that 40 per cent of companies are at risk of being displaced by digital disruption by 2020," she said. "By laying the foundations and establishing broadband as an essential pillar to the future of the UK economy, businesses will be able to drive innovation and build a framework that will improve productivity, fuel collaboration, capitalise on business opportunity and accelerate the UK digital economy."
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