Will new Government kill the Digital Economy Bill?

Speculation mounts that Conservatives and Liberal Democrat coalition will repeal Digital Economy Bill

Barry Collins
12 May 2010

The formation of the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition Government has raised hopes that the controversial Digital Economy Bill will be repealed.

Both parties were hugely critical of the bill, which passed through the Commons during the so-called "wash-up" procedure before the General Election.

New Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, described the passing of the Digital Economy Bill as a "stitch-up" between Labour and Conservative MPs, and a "classic example of what's wrong with Westminster".

It now awaits to be seen whether Clegg and his new Conservative allies have the stomach to repeal the bill, which includes draconian measures for dealing with illegal file-sharing that were introduced by the former Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson.

The new Government is reported to be working on a Great Repeal Bill, which will scrap ID cards, biometric passports and protect trial by jury. It is speculated that the Digital Economy Bill could also be included.

Next-generation broadband

One aspect of the Digital Economy Bill that will remains unclear is the funding of next-generation broadband. The bill originally included a 50p per month levy on landlines to pay for a nationwide fibre rollout, but those plans were pulled at the behest of the Conservatives in the wash-up.

The Conservatives have long stated that they would prefer to see how far private investment will stretch before committing public money to the broadband infrastructure, but most experts believe that at least 10% of the country will be left without next-generation broadband if left to market forces alone.

BT is tomorrow expected to announce that it's expanding its fibre rollout to two thirds of the country.

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