Broadband a priority for new government, but repeal of Digital Economy Act unlikely


Broadband a priority for new government, but repeal of Digital Economy Act unlikely

Ian Grant

The extension of broadband to UK citizens remained high on the new government's priority list, despite not being part of the agreement thrashed out by Conservative and Liberal Democrat negotiators this week.

However, an early repeal of the controversial Digital Economy Act was unlikely, a Conservative Party spokesman told Computer Weekly.

The act was rushed through in two hours at the end of the previous parliament, and has been widely condemned as not addressing online copyright effectively.

The statement came after the government published the terms of the agreement between the two coalition parties. The agreement included plans to scrap at least £15bn worth of IT projects planned by the former Labour government.

They include the £4bn ID card scheme and the national identity register, the next generation of biometric passports, and the £224m Contact Point Database.

The parties also agreed to end "storage of internet and e-mail records without good reason". This appeared to put at risk the £12bn Interception Modernisation Programme, which would have collected and stored every message sent and received by the UK's networks.

However, internet service providers already collect address and time details of e-mails and voice calls made over the internet under the European Data Retention Directive and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa).

The spokesman said the proposed "repeal bill" mentioned in the coalition agreement referred to rolling back measures that restricted UK civil liberties, hence broadband roll-outs and the digital economy were unaffected by the proposed bill.

"Broadband is a high priority for the government, but we have only been here 24 hours," she said.

In their pre-election manifestos, both Conservatives and LibDems committed themselves to speeding up the roll-out of faster broadband access to more people.

The Conservatives were keen to see how far the market would take it, while Lib-Dems were less explicit.

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