The government has set out its vision for the future communications and digital landscape in the UK, in a wide-ranging policy document that ranges from internet filtering to tackling nuisance calls and future 5G spectrum use.
The document, entitled Connectivity, Content and Consumers, was released by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on Tuesday and sets out the government’s future strategy on numerous issues.
The paper was expected to form the basis of a new Communications Act, but V3 understands the government is now more likely to amend existing legislation where necessary, rather than introduce a new bill.
Perhaps most noteworthy is the inclusion of recent web filtering plans to try and tackle perceived threats from certain material, such as pornography, by having active filters on broadband accounts in the home.
The report said: “Inside the home, the four main internet service providers, who together cover nine out of 10 homes, have agreed that by the end of this year, when a new customer sets up a broadband account the settings to install family friendly filters will be automatically selected."
It does not appear at present this will be one of the areas pushed through to become official legislation.
Another area of the document sets out the government’s intention to ensure it provides enough spectrum for future mobile services, noting its recent investment in 5G research.
“The rollout of 4G services and the demand to go further with 5G has highlighted the increasing value of spectrum and it is important that we manage it as efficiently as possible,” it said.
The government could introduce new legislation to allow Ofcom to carry out more auctions on unused spectrum, and to give more power to government to direct Ofcom on how it should proceed around spectrum issues.
In other areas of mobile, the government also sets out its desire to ensure connectivity across the whole of the UK, citing its recent plans to reach 99 percent of the population.
However, references to the Mobile Infrastructure Project (MIP) – which sees £150m being spent to fill in all the mobile not-spots around the UK – seem to contain a tacit admission that not all areas will definitely be covered by the plan.
“The MIP will improve coverage through building additional mobile infrastructure and providing state of the art coverage in areas currently with none,” it reads. “We will cover as many of these not-spots as possible, as well as key roads without continuous coverage.”
The scourge of nuisance calls is also prominent, with calls for regulators, such as the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to have stronger powers to act against companies that bombard the public with unwanted calls.
“We believe that significant improvements can be made in this area as a result of the range of initiatives now underway and we will look to detail regulatory action taken and further measures to be implemented on nuisance calls in the autumn,” it reads.
“We will also keep this issue under review and if we cannot see clear progress we will consider further legislation, for example, to license call centres, and/or bring together functions to tackle nuisance calls and texts under a single regulator.”
The plans follow on from a consultation launched by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee on nuisance calls, which issued a demand for evidence on what regulators, such as the ICO, wanted to be improved.
Commenting on the document, culture secretary Maria Miller said the document was designed to protect UK consumers by tackling the most pressing digital issues head on.
“In this digital age we must ensure the needs of the consumer are not lost in the dash for progress and the changes we are making will put the British public at the heart of the sector,” she said. “The government will ensure consumers are protected from potentially harmful content, soaring costs and contracts that don’t meet their needs."
Some areas of the document will now be used as official policy, while others will be subject to more specific consultations, before being put forward as new clauses on existing legislation.
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