The Government finally set out its plans to cut off illegal file-sharers in this week’s Queen’s Speech, but the £6 broadband tax is delayed till next year.
“My government will introduce a bill to ensure communications infrastructure that is fit for the digital age, supports future economic growth, delivers competitive communications and enhances public service broadcasting,” the Queen said in the speech, which sets out the programme of legislation till the General Election next year.
The two-stage anti-piracy bill will consist of sending letters to illegal downloaders and passing their details on to media companies, which have the option of launching their own legal actions.
The second phase could involve a number of technical measures including slowing down the connection speed of offenders or temporarily suspending their connections.
Commenting on the Digital Economy Bill unveiled in the Queen’s Speech, Which? chief executive Peter Vicary-Smith, said: “Although we support a crackdown on illegal filesharing, we’re concerned that these proposals could see the wrong people being targeted while the real culprits slip through the net.
“We must ensure that illegal filesharers are identified and dealt with appropriately and that those who have been wrongly accused have access to a fair, free and quick independent adjudication system and that any penalties are proportionate.”
While speculation and controversy rage around the prospect of cutting off internet pirates, plans for a 50p-a-month tax on phone lines to fund next-generation high-speed broadband networks appear to have been omitted from the speech.
The plan to introduce universal broadband of at least 2 megabits per second was also not included, although a spokeswoman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills told the BBC “It does not need legislation”.
Commenting on the omitted ‘broadband tax’ measures, Michael Phillips, product director of Broadbandchoices.co.uk, added: “It was encouraging to hear her Majesty highlighting the Government’s commitment to a Digital Britain but it did little to add any further detail to what has been a pretty vague and underwhelming report.
“To date, apart from confirming the contentious £6 broadband levy, the Government has disclosed little in the way of financing the inevitable funding shortfall or any detailed physical implementation plans. It’s nearly 2010, so her Government will need to get their skates on to meet the 2Mb commitment by 2012 or the “next generation” services target before the end of the next decade.”