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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?


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Well there are 2 options as I see it: one is satellite, which we had until last May when the company providing it went bust, the other is 4G which I understand some enterprising farmers have installed in their communities. The question is, should those of us who are, shall we say, ‘locationally challenged’ be expected to pay more, and if so, how much?

Duncan I suspect that might be an engineer but you are quite correct, superfast broadband will never be achieved until each and every house is connected by a fibre optic feed. Though there are a few measures which can used as a stop-gap. If we take Milton Keynes as an example, back in the days when the Development Corporation banned all external aerials for off-air TV reception and put out to tender the provision of a Cable TV service. The Nationalised BT won the contract but were prevented by the Tory Government from providing a single coaxial cable to every premises which would carry, TV, Radio, Telephone and there was also provision for a local TV Channel. The system used was a VHF/UHF Hybrid with the signal first carried at VHF (A VHF signal can be transmitted further without amplification) to a cabinet near the customers homes where it modulated to UHF for the last yards. Due to complaints from the then Cable TV Companies through their Association ensured that the Telephone service was removed and had to be carried on normal ‘pair’ cable. In Milton Keynes it should be possible by upgrading the transmission from analogue to digital to carry a relatively fast broadband signal. Bot sadly there are few places where there are existing coaxial Cable TV systems.

Another method that was being investigated was the use of local low power radial micro-wave. I’m sure you have all seen streets especially in English towns and villages where there is a telephone pole with wires radiating from it to the customers. The concept that was being considered was to replace the wires by a small round dish on top of the pole and radiating a low power micro-wave signal to receivers on each house. The problem with all micro-waves is that they can be blanked by heavy rain, snow and even fog.

All these options were available in the early 80’s with France leading the way in Biarritz. All this was going on while Thatcher was selling-off the Nations silver and building Trident submarines. So it’s no wonder we’re about 40 years behinf everybody else – aye the Private Sector can do it better – I DON’T THINK.

Duncan hope this helps.

There are two ways in which I don’t think it goes far enough to protect consumers, one terms of spending online and the other is in terms of apps withdrawing support for devices which are a few years old, which still work, to force an upgrade that people may not be able to afford.
I think these 2 things should be included:
1. Verisign should continue to ask shoppers to provide a password when using their card online, to directly protect them from other people spending their money if their card is skimmed.
2. As it shows in this article on Which? from 2013, customers are losing out on devices – particularly early adopters who paid a premium – because multiple apps are withdrawing support from various devices. https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/smart-tv-software-support-commitment-issues-bbc-iplayer-netflix/

Using an older Blackberry Torch (2009) that worked fine for social media two years ago (before I bought a Blackberry Android), I no longer have access to: Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Notifications and Pages manager, Twitter and Skype. With my only relative in another country, that means paying full network provider whack to text and call when previously I could use one of the withdrawn communications apps.

The Bill should protect people’s devices which still work as in this time of “austerity” many sections of society and those developing countries are simply cut off without a voice.

This is the best reply on this site why should we not be able to have access to notifications etc when we paid £650 for an iphone only to be told it is out of date even though it works pefectly well This is BLACKMAIL to make us buy the latest device that will have lots of problems for the first couple of months before it is tuned in properly I AM FEDUP OF APPLE ETC BLACKMAILING ME TO BUY NEW DEVICES

A reasonably good act, but information on it has not been widely promulgated.
Much of the Act’s provisions will happen without the Citizens knowledge, but when it doesn’t, people need to their rights, ant how to go about getting them enforced.

Gove is promising to curtail those rights after Brexit, the major reason that the so called Brexiters want out to stop punters to see what they are doing. 2 things will go almost immediately, FOI being the first and minimum wage. Along with others for example possibly the making of NHS work partly contributable. Enjoy

A useful act, but information on it has not been widely promulgated.
Much of the Act’s provisions will happen without the Citizens knowledge, but when it doesn’t, people need to their rights, ant how to go about getting them enforced.

The “disappointingly amateurish and technically-illiterate” Digital Economy Act was the last straw.

Last Wednesday, 3 May 2017, Jerry Fishenden published a blog post,

His resignation as co-chair of the Cabinet Office Privacy and Consumer Advisory Group (PCAG). The group has reviewed and commented upon a wide range of government initiatives, including predicting the disaster that become NHS care.data, the fraud risks of ill-considered “data-sharing” (under various guises), the troubled and late-running GOV.UK Verify identity assurance programme, the Office of National Statistics use of data, the “digital transformation” of the electoral roll, Home Office fraud issues, the Investigatory Powers Bill (now Act), and other proposals and ideas from across government.

The “disappointingly amateurish and technically-illiterate” Digital Economy Act was the last straw. Mr Fishenden had to resign. PCAG’s advice was “repeatedly ignored by officials who should know better” and those officials “repeatedly misled and misinformed” PCAG.

No doubt honest and able people like Mr Fishenden resign all the time, infuriated by official mendacity and incompetence, but it’s rare to see them speak out like this … … and rarer still to see them loose off another shot a day or two later, please see Gov.uk Verify and identity assurance – it’s time for a rethink, in which Mr Fishenden confirms and amplifies that GOV.UK Verify is dead.

Thanks to D.Moss for the info

As for Verify it is horrible mess and in a long article Mr Fishenden takes it apart. Of interest to all consumers is is this small part:

” Verify requires citizens to establish a brand new relationship with a commercial organisation with whom the citizen has no prior relationship – and probably no particular desire to have such a relationship. In creating this imposed relationship with a chosen commercial provider, the citizen is obliged to disclose a wide range of personal information. Such data include for example some or all of:

full name
date and place of birth
full postal address
email address
telephone number
passport number
driving licence number
marriage certificate
birth certificate
bank account details
type and numbers of credit cards held
mortgage details
length of time at current address
loan details
If a citizen gets through this whole process successfully, the commercial provider will maintain the citizen’s credential – typically a user ID and password. This new commercial provider now controls a user’s online authentication and access to government services.

This approach is not the one originally envisaged for the identity assurance framework. The original idea was that citizens should use a trusted third party with which they already had an existing relationship – and which could therefore provide assurance about their identity.

Instead, an artificial marketplace of commercial entities has been nurtured and paid for by the Verify platform. These new third parties have effectively been given an exclusive mandate as commercial gatekeepers of citizens’ access to online government services.

This approach also breaks one of the sensible “laws of identity” set out by Microsoft identity architect Kim Cameron many years ago. It inserts a brand new third party between citizens and government which has no obvious place in that relationship. Given all the political sensitivities about “privatising public services”, it’s unclear when the Verify platform team made the decision to insert and mandate commercial organisations as the monopoly controllers of authenticated citizen access to online public services.”


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Totally agree about government supporting the interests of Big Business (USA).
I recently disabled my Apple iCloud account. There was lots of help on setting up the account, but I had to jump through hoops to get back control of my own images, texts, documents etc. Ironically, I only moved everything to the cloud, because it was the simplest method of returning my constantly resetting/reloading Ipad to its factory settings.

Why is it that everything about the internet is becoming easier, but staying in control of your own data is becoming more difficult?

It’s almost like they intentionally make it difficuly. Surely not.

The good news… this Act will be useful, but only if you have a paper copy, you are somewhere very cold, have a box of matches, and need to get warmed-up. 🙂

LOL !!! 🙂🙃🙂

A minimum speed of 10 mb/s … what you actually mean is a minimum speed of 1mb/s … it has annoyed me for many years that internet speeds have always been multiplied by 10 … WHY does this X10 happen? Give the actual speed not some magical number that is a false indicator of line speed.

Roger Green says:
20 December 2017

Where do you get that impression that Internet speeds are multiplied x10?
Are you confusing megabits with megabytes? With 8 bits to a byte, plus a small amount of allowance for communication overheads, that would explain the x10 (more or less).
Speeds are quoted in megabits (small b) and in my experience are occasionally managed, although not as often as they once were.

Also, you are correct in saying that the ISP are responsible for line speed. Once you factor in in wifi speed losses that most people will suffer, you will not getthe headline speed.

This is what ISPs should be doing, educate consumers into what they are actually purchasing, not what some marketing executive thinks sounds good ( but that may be because the marketing executive doesn’t understand the technology either).

Having said that, a minimum of 10Mb/s is still a lot faster than some people get.
ISPs should not be allowed to get away with “up to” in their advertising.

hennethgalad says:
20 December 2017

people on benefits, pensioners etc should get a digital pass, like a bus pass. these charges are beyond the reach of millions, but everything is online.
the net is already a gated community.

In addition to providing fast broadband speeds to all parts of the country, the government should also take steps to ensure that mobile phone network operators are obliged to provide universal coverage in the UK. At the present time, coverage is much worse than in most other countries in Europe. I can receive a perfect signal from my mobile network service provider all over Europe, but at home I have no signal at all, and I don’t live in a remote rural location but a medium-sized town in Devon.

brian says:
20 December 2017

Not much chance when the regulator OFCOM is basically in the hands of mobile and internet companies, they say jump and OFCOM asks how high!

Occasionally they try to look as though they are doing something, for example a proposal to allow users to use any mobile service available if none available with their own provider, but companies object, make a promise (never fulfilled) and they back down.

The phone network needs to be viewed as a national asset that we all have a right to use.
Can’t even get a decent 2G let alone 3 or 4G signal in the areas where I need it, well I can but each location is only served by one provider and different in each area.

But guess that’s what you guess when the head of OFCOM is an ex-civil servant with no experience in technology matters She needs to be fired and replaced with someone who knows what they are doing and has at least a partial backbone.

Apart from a little bit of fibre owned by Virgin and Kingston the rest of the local lines are owned by BT Openreach. Everyone else is just a billing company offering “value add”. Since BT was privatised the price has risen annually to pay for investment. So far all we have seen is BT adding TV services and Mobiles and making profits that far outstrip anything in the EU. At the same time the cost of routers etc. has fallen. Bit like Gas, Electricity, Water…….
Its time Openreach was taken off BT and privatised or made a not for profit organisation.

BT is to blame for most broadband problems not the broadband providers they all have to use BT exchanges and BT lines so all complains of slow broadband should be directed at BT or HMG some providers try to help but in a way their hands are tied Some seem to have problem with Virgin ?

Ensuring that everyone in the UK, including all remote places, has access to the internet of at least 10Mbps is essential now that so many Government agencies, banks and other essential services such as the NHS, use the internet to communicate with us, this minimum standard is now of paramount importance to the economy and our well being.

This should include Microsoft! e.g I purchased a brand new laptop less than a decade ago, the Windows Vista OS. But Microsoft screw customers, after a few years have passed, by no longer supporting “older” OS’s. Their brazen advice is to buy a completely NEW computer! As IF customer’s can afford to spend out half a grand every few years. My Laptop is a top of the range Dell & I don’t intend to simply throw it on the scrap heap!
Instead I have recently purchased a £50 USB gadget device – that will convert my PC over to the Linux OS! Greedy Bill Gates, won’t like that!

I totally agree with A.Jones,. This is something that needs looking into being sorted. I too purchased a top quality Toshiba laptop with the microsoft Windows Vista system on it. For past couple of years I was getting information through that they were no longer updating that and other microsoft systems so the computer will be open to all sorts of viruses, etc. A perfectly good system I had no problems with until a few weeks ago when the Windows crashed unexpectedly. I was unable to do anything with it so lost all my information, files and email addresses along with much more because I did not go and buy a new Windows 10 system computer. They should not be able to control the customer/user of their product as much as that. They should keep updating their not very old systems so happy users can continue with it and not have to learn a new system every few years.
Which, can you campaign for this please?

Well done A.Jones and sorry to hear about Terry’s crash.

In the last few years I have upgraded many Windows Vista PCs to Linux, which allows those machines to carry on getting used without the security worries of using an unsupported OS.

Quite a lot of Vista machines will also run Windows 10, though M$ never offered that as a free upgrade (other than to its beta testers and other early adopters).

My personal view is that Linux is simpler, faster and better – but there is a learning curve in moving over to Linux – and not all software is available to run on Linux.

Douglas Dickson says:
20 December 2017

Brilliant news but I fear Bt will put up costs to cover any shortfall in profit

Of course it will !! it cannot lose money !

All very well and good to hear but do I believe it?…sadly, NO! The Broadband Providers will still be able to add so many caveats and limitations on their actual performance that I think the reality will be some way off the 2020 targets. How can this rapid improvement in technology infrastucture be acheived in just three more years when we have the history of the last decade and more to guide us?

Sorry to appear so cynical; I do appreciate all that Which has been doing for a condiderable time now to promote a change for the better!!

2020! Its like waiting for a slow download.

Paul Rotherham says:
20 December 2017

BT will say that 2mbs is there recommend speed keeping themselves safe and inside the law It has got to the stage now were I cant watch clips of films or a film even browsing it sticks but its not BT’s fault you need to reposition your hub your laptop is clogged this week I got an e-mail from BT telling me to hurry and get there newest hub faster speeds no buffering offer ends on 6th Jan 2018 Yours for an extra £2 a mth. That I refuse to do on principal it is there job to offer me there best equipment at the price they quoted to me. In this part of Northern Ireland there is two local villages and they both have fibre optic Portaferry and my neighbour who is on the Kircubbin exchange and lives about 5 miles away from the exchange and I’m less than 2 miles away from the Portavogie exchange and they don’t have fibre installed yet and don’t think they ever will

John Morris says:
20 December 2017

My current broadband download speed is less than 3.00 Mbps and I live in urban Orpington part of the London Borough of Bromley, well within the M25. My nearest street cabinet is half a mile away so even if I pay extra for Fibre the signal will still run on the old cables for the last half a mile. Even if I wait until 2020 for the govt. minimum speed of 10 Mbps I can’t see BT replacing all the cables in my area!

The government have said that we will have a “legal right to a decent broadband connection”, but have said nothing about the cost of installing it. If the ISPs can come back and say “We’ve got to install 50 miles of fibre to reach you so the installation charge will be £500,000”, then this is just window dressing. This is only meaningful if they also state that the installation charge must be the same for any premises anywhere in the country!

The government are only paying lip service,they will do as little as possible for the longest time they can and blame everyboby and their uncle for all the delays. But if there was a quick profit to be made they would be all over it like rash,dont hold your breath.