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Updated: what does the Digital Economy Act mean for you?

Digital UK

The Digital Economy Bill has finished its passage through Parliament and is finally law, but what does it mean for your rights in the digital age?

The Digital Economy Act 2017 had a long and winding journey to becoming legislation, and we’ve been there every step of the way to ensure consumers get the most out of this new law.

The Act is wide-ranging, tackling issues of switching telecoms provider, nuisance calls, access to superfast broadband, and compensation for consumers. So what changes will you see?

Gaining Provider Led switching

Firstly, the Act makes explicit Ofcom’s power to introduce Gaining Provider Led switching (GPL) across the telecoms market.

GPL means that when you switch telecoms provider, such as your mobile phone or broadband, you’ll only need to contact the provider you want to switch to. They’ll then take care of shifting everything over from your old provider, just like when you swap bank accounts or energy providers.

This means less hassle for consumers when switching, and no being put through to ‘customer retention’ when you call up to try to cancel.

It also means the onus is on your provider to give you a service that won’t make you want to leave in the first place.

Automatic Compensation

The Digital Economy Act also puts in place specific powers for Ofcom to introduce automatic compensation in telecoms.

This means that when providers don’t deliver the service you pay for, rather than you having to get in touch and make a claim, they are obliged to send the money straight to your account.

Of course, there are limitations as to where this is possible, but this power now means that Ofcom can push ahead with putting it in place wherever it sees fit – as it’s already done with broadband.

Universal Service Obligation for broadband

One of the headline provisions of the Digital Economy Act has been the Universal Service Obligation (USO) for broadband. This will give people the right to request a broadband connection of at least 10mbps if it isn’t possible to get a connection through a private provider.

The USO will also increase to a higher level in future years. This will ensure that no one is left behind as technology and speeds improve in the future. It may not get everyone lightning-fast speeds, but we will have a connectivity ‘safety net’ that will get everyone in the country online.

Ofcom appeals reform

The most controversial part of the Act was the reform to Ofcom’s appeal processes.

For years, we’ve seen what we called ‘a glacial pace’ of change in telecoms, with Ofcom’s decisions being frequently challenged in court by the big telecoms providers, even when these challenges weren’t really justified.

We argued strongly throughout the passage of the Act that reform was necessary, and now the Act ensures that Ofcom’s appeals process falls in line with that of the other regulators.

The new system is more balanced and fair, and should result in quicker and more effective regulation from Ofcom in the future.

So, with the new Digital Economy Act, the telecoms market is set to improve in a myriad of ways for consumers, with easier switching and compensation, tougher action to keep our data safe, better access to broadband for those in the hardest-to-reach areas, and a bolder regulator more able to stand up for consumers – result!

Better broadband connections for UK homes

Update, 20 December 2017: Soon you will have a legal right to a decent broadband connection in UK homes and businesses.

The government has acted on its plans to deliver universal broadband across the UK, by implementing a universal service obligation (USO). The USO will ensure that everyone can reach speeds of at least 10Mbps by 2020.

In 2015, the telecoms regulator Ofcom reported that 10Mbps was the minimum speed needed to meet the requirements of an average family in the UK. According to the regulator, around 4% of UK homes aren’t able to reach speeds of at least 10Mps.

The government will work with Ofcom to implement this change over the next two years. We want to see the government move quickly to ensure people get these promised speeds by 2020, and we expect the government to closely monitor the programme to ensure it can keep pace with changing technology.

So do you welcome this news on broadband? Do you suffer with slow broadband speeds? What else do you think could improve your home broadband?


In my previous comment but one, in the second paragraph, I referred to speeds of “5%”! My mind was wandering. The phrase should have read “Oh no you haven’t – we’re still only able to get 5 mbps on a good day”.

5MBPS ???? your lucky, we get 1.8 mbps when the kids in the village are at school when they come home not a chance, as for trying to get 2 things on the internet at once your having a laugh, takes all nite to download one hour of tv on our sky box. We dream of 5mbps, 3 miles away they get 4G work that one out.

Vic Smith says:
24 December 2017

As much as that?!

In my cardboard box …….

Instead of just complaining it is time for politicians to start doing something about broadband problems, energy problems, telephone problems, give the Watchdogs REAL power over the providers.

“Instead of just complaining it is time for politicians to start doing something”. Start doing something? What a GREAT idea … but have you noticed how the political norm is now “no comment”, not available for questions on news progs, related by “statements”, how few seats are now occupied in parliament when televised, the sliding into place behind a Minister makes a “statement”?
I conclude that “something” is no longer part of our Con Gov’s vocabulary.

MPs are not interested in anything at all unless it personally affects them !

Emila says:
8 July 2018

Your not wrong there. Nothing never ever changes until it affects them. Just waiting for the next brexit vote, lol.

James says:
23 December 2017

I’m lucky if I get 5mbs and I work the IT industry so require a quick connection for connecting to office pc. My progress yesterday was slow as I worked from home. I mean unbearably slow but Majority of people don’t need fibre speeds. People are addicted to Facebook and Instragram. The time wasters of our society is what I call them. They can make do with slow connections or even a modem but there is a large number that do online gaming and really do need better speeds, online streaming another example.

The Brit public need to focus more on things that matter. If you want quicker speeds, stop focusing on trivial things in life like the the Royals. That’s why I wanted to respond and support this debate. I know some countries, like Germany, laugh at us. My cousins that live in outside the UK certainly do because I live in the UK now. Yes, our politicians are useless. Teressa May being the best of the worse which doesn’t help. Even when it comes to stronger penalties for animal cruelty, something I feel strongly about, we are far behind other countries in Europe. I just accept it like everyone else. It’s all part of the package of living in the UK. You want a change? You need to wait at least ten years. As they use to say in Ozz when I lived there. All talk but no action. That’s uk politicians and Brit public never complain. You just need to look at the cost of the tube. It goes up every year and the Brits just accept it. Brits have got their priorities wrong.

I am glad you have enjoyed the freedom granted in the UK to relieve yourself of your strong feelings about the appalling conditions here, James. And up to a point I agree with you.

People who do on-line gaming really do need high speed broadband, but what contribution has the on-line gaming industry made towards providing the infrastructure that their customers need? For my amusement I go to a meeting of the local history society and I really do need a bus home at nine o’clock but there are none running. I have to walk at about 4 mph. It’s not fair is it? But then life’s not fair. Happy Christmas.

Social Media is not a necessity and neither is online gaming.

Digital Economy Act is now with us, but not with all of us.
Some people with mobility problems, eg wheelchair users who are unable to use public transport on their own and who are unable to have help to manage such journeys, are unable to attend computer tuition classes. It is true some can benefit from one to one tuition given at home, but they can learn faster and learn more attending classes with others.
Transport could be provided by local authorities in the form of an accessible vehicle that could carry several people per each journey.
My own council, Camden in London, keeps telling us it is turning all digital by a certain date. But when we request help with transport to courses, it tells us its budget cannot afford that.
So, how can a severely disabled wheelchair user, such as I, ever join the rest of the world and not feel isolated ?

I’d just like to add, I’m sick of being charged for promised speeds…… up to 17.5
Only to find when you’re with that provider You find you can only achieve a speed of 1.5 and sometimes lower.
I bet we’d get better speeds if they could only charge us for what we receive!
There’s no incentive for providers to ensure we get reasonable speeds when they are allowed to use fixed fee’s whilst we get low speeds! They should only be allowed to charge for what you can get.

Peter says:
7 January 2018

I quite agree. I started off with broadband speeds of around 22 to 25 mbps with a “guaranteed” speed of 18 mbps. It’s now down to between 3 and 9 mbps with disconnections. Okay I appreciate that is not as bad as some people experience but it still causes considerable problems with my work as I can’t always upload information and the disconnections mean I lose information that has not been saved. I pay EE for broadband and have never had such poor service with a totally complacent attitude with regard to the ever decreasing speed.

This may be an important service for those who live in isolated locations. Also for those who are permanently housebound. Our politicians are not in the real world. There is a need to provide services which help overcome loneliness espescially for the elderly. There are many who live in the countryside in communities where local bus services have been withdrawn. This means that there lives have diminished considerably. Yes immediate neighbours may be able to help at times. I would much prefer to meet people face to face than have to depend on electronic means of communication. This is the UK not the outback of Australia. There is much wrong with the basics of this country which needs improving. Something which our politicians do not appreciate.

I live only a couple metres from people receiving super fibre but most days we are excited if we are able to get 1 mb 🙁 . I have contacted the Local Authority and Councillor since the article in Which but awaiting a reply.
In my job I need internet as I have been forced to work more agile due to hot desking, I need to write legal reports and have been forced to work in other none secure sites ( I am sure the Government would not like to write about the family issues in a library) . I do not live in the country side but a small development of 23 houses. Fingers Crossed I can keep my job without breaching data protection and being able to internet shop !!! I have lived here for 4 years and now at the end of my tether>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Sarah says:
31 December 2017

I live only 50 miles from London, but BT consider that REMOTE! I am lucky to get 1Mbps, and even then I get frequent dropouts. Landlines should be free below 2Mbps, then perhaps we might be upgraded sooner. Many developing countries get better than this, so if our politicians wish to raise UK productivity, invest in basic infrastructure.

I have read a lot of these comments and feel for you all.

I have been continuously badgering BT, Openreach, BT Wholesale, local council and government to bring Superfast Broadband to where I live for the past 4 – 5 years. Don’t get me wrong, its not like it isn’t in the area, it is, our house is just a little too far to receive it. I have a child with a disability that needs access to streaming services for therapy and despite ALL parties being privy to this information absolutely none of them took this into consideration when turning the other way and saying there’s nothing they can do.

Fortunately I am in a position to be able to split my connection between ADSL and 4G tethering as an when required, although tethering data caps hinder this as a long term solution, but its a winner over ADSL (3.5Mbps) by a mile (4G – 80Mbps). It’s funny how my tiny little mobile can provide 25x greater speed than my fixed line. I too work in IT so I am able to maximise available provisions, but lets just say that I am a thorn in the side of telecom companies and ISP’s who hate to talk to me as they are unable to brush me off as easily as they may be able too with others (or pull the wool over ones eyes as one company once genuinely said to me!).

Unfortunately the Superfast debacle is in a very sorry state, the 4% touted as a figure for those not able to receive at least 10Mbps is very conservative, I have absolutely no doubt that the figure is much higher. I would loved to have been a fly on the wall when the government said ‘NO’ to BT’s offer to provide their proposed USO, I guarantee that there was a lot of sharp intakes of breath and heads in hands on that day as the task ahead of them is huge now!

The USO is great news for everyone, as long as the USO does indeed keep increasing, if 10Mbps was quoted as a universal figure for families in 2015, it should, at the very least, be 20Mbps by 2020 and the not the 10Mbps laid down, but time will tell.

Just as a side note I contacted my ISP this morning to discuss their proposals to introduce the USO and they didn’t know what it was (until I laid it down to them), not a great starting point but we’ll see….

Brenda Hooper says:
3 January 2018

I welcome this move to guarantee 10mps. I have been in discussion with my service provider for most of this year to get an improvement in speed. OpenReach are the problem in my area, not my supplier, but OpenReach will only deal with the supplier.
I am only 8 miles from the centre of Leeds, so you would expect a better service. I get 0.30mps, it used to be 1mps, but deteriorated in the autumn. We are 2 kilometres from the telephone cabinet which is why OpenReach can’t improve the speed. The cabinet has fibre but we don’t. I am looking forward to things improving. I can’t get 4g either.

I presently enjoy 0.25mbps in part due to a phenomenon that is never discussed, some part of the telephone cables between the exchange and our property are aluminium. BT and Openreach only ever discuss copper and fibre they neglect to mention all the aluminium cabling that they use. Where copper and aluminium are joined you get corrosion, so they are constantly having to send engineers to repair the connections. Plus aluminium can’t handle the frequencies required by broadband so it kills the speed. I was recently told by iNorthumberland that I was able to get fibre based on BT’s own website information so I applied to my provider for an upgrade. I was without broadband for 1 month whilst it was sorted out and an Openreach engineer said it wouldn’t reach our property because we were too far from the cabinet. I’ve since had an apology from iNorthumberland for the misinformation provided by BT and have been told that by the end of 2018 I will be able to get FTTP with speeds of up to 330mbps available. Talk about feast or famine! BT should only be allowed to charge for the actual speed they can deliver and customers should pay pro rata accordingly. So if my contract is for up to 17mbps and it costs £17 a month for that contract I should only pay £0.25 per month as that is all they can deliver, I think they’d soon pull their finger out! It’s like me buying a ticket for National Express from Newcastle to London and arriving at the bus station to be greeted with a horse and cart.

I live in a rural location and get a speed of 0.7 Mbs.As our local net work was updated recently I had my system updatede to Fibre to the Cabinet.I live a distance of 1.5 miles from said cabinet.
Unfortunately my speed is now 0.5Mbs.Today Bt Openreach have had a look and agree it doent work.
The Engineer from Openreach say’s that using fibre to the cabinet with such a long copper run sometimes doesnt work.He recomends going back to the original ADSL system
I must confess I am Confused and a bit Teed off

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Brian W says:
1 February 2018

What tests should the engineer conduct from a master socket and as the customer they should leave the results. That brings into question as to what do these results mean!
Without the results the engineer could say that it is a problem in your equipment and walk away. Does the engineer have any right to test my equipment without my consent?

Using the Which? broadband speed test it regularly fails to complete Upload Speed test even after waiting for 5 minutes. What is the best alternative?

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Speedtest no longer use Flash but their legacy site does. Someone listened. 🙂

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Flash is a disaster.

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They don’t seem to be watching me, then. No email…

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Welcome to the day in 1966 of the first soft landing on the Moon by the USSR.

Help yourselves to anything.

Please sir – You have posted your daily humour here rather than in The Lobby, following on from other off-topic comments. We are following, like sheep. 🙁

Given the post about “the expected” – this is not entirely inappropriate. Was is “conspiracy” or that other thing?

Oh, good grief! Clearly I’m losing what little remains of my mind…

I’d tell you a chemistry joke but I know I wouldn’t get a reaction.

That’s the problem with equilibrium. Nothing changes.

Have you heard the one about a chemist who was reading a book about helium?

He just couldn’t put it down.

I like a little light reading.

Light reading makes me think of the old illuminated manuscripts. I’m sure there must be ones with LEDs these days.

e readers

Doesn’t expecting the unexpected make the unexpected become the expected?

I think it does.

In safety disciplines, we are often encouraged to consider the “unforeseen” component of risk.

Similar principles can also be applied to the “unforeseen consequences” of new consumer protection legislation.

For example, we might think that the Digital Economy Act will help us all get faster broadband, but will it actually do anything to foster investment in the infrastructures needed to deliver that?

Perhaps nationalising and merging Virgin and Openreach would have been a more useful thing to have done?

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R.I.P boiled water. You will be mist.

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This comment was removed at the request of the user