Lords raise fears over Digital Economy Bill
Several members of the House of Lords have raised fears over elements of the Government’s controversial Digital Economy Bill.
The wide-ranging bill covers everything from the future of Britain’s broadband network to measures to deal with illegal file-sharing to broadcasting regulation.
PC Pro and leading industry figures met with several peers yesterday to discuss concerns over the bill, including how to get high-speed broadband into rural areas, fears over the threat to cut-off the connections of alleged file-sharers and the Government’s pledge to deliver “2Mbits/sec” broadband to all by 2012.
The industry has been extremely slow to listen to the demands of its customers, and has had something of an abusive relationship with them
The bill was also being debated in the House of Lords yesterday, with vocal opposition to many of the measures in the proposed legislation.
Lord Lucas expressed doubts over the Government’s plans to disconnect illegal file-sharers, claiming that the entertainment industry hadn’t done enough to encourage people to pursue legal methods.
“We need to bear in mind that the problems now facing the industry are, to quite a large extent, of their own creation,” he said. “The industry has been extremely slow to listen to the demands of its customers, and has had something of an abusive relationship with them, seeking to punish them before thinking of how to serve them better.
“It has taken a decade for the industry to produce sensible alternatives to illegal file-sharing, and the fact that a generation of people have become used to an illegality comes down to the industry’s sluggishness. It is still slow.”
Lucas also has grave fears over the use of IP addresses to identify alleged illegal file-sharers. “I am not at all clear that we have the technology to go beyond the IP address, which comes into my router, to identify which user of perhaps one or two dozen who have access, has done the illegal downloading,” he told the peers.
“We need to be very clear that we do not tip people into losing their internet connection, or worse, on a technically fallible basis.”
Lord Carter returns
Digital Britain author Lord Carter, who resigned from the Government this summer, also made a return to the House to defend the report that led to the Digital Economy Bill.
He made an especially impassioned defence of the 50p-per-month broadband tax, that the Conservatives have already said they’ll scrap if they gain power next year.
Carter compared the so-called Broadband tax to the television licence. “As a country we are still broadly willing, with some notable objectors, to spend £142.50 per household per annum, with appropriate exemptions for certain households, in a hypothecated tax called the licence fee to provide us with high quality public service British content,” he said.
“It seems a credible proposition that we should be more than willing to invest £6 per household per annum, with appropriate exemptions for certain households, to facilitate and accelerate our infrastructure upgrade.”