Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

United Kingdom: High-Speed Broadband to Be a Legal Right

(Jan. 3, 2018) In 2017, the United Kingdom government passed the Digital Economy Act, which implements policies contained in the 2015 Conservative Party Manifesto and regulates a number of areas relating to online activities. The aims of the Act include, but are not limited to, ensuring that both individuals and businesses have access to high-speed Internet; enabling investment in digital infrastructure; requiring age verification for individuals who wish to view online pornography, with penalties for non-compliance; providing for data sharing between public bodies; and introducing a statutory code for direct marketing. (Digital Economy Act 2017, c. 30, LEGISLATION.GOV.UK.)

The government recently issued a press release announcing that universal, high-speed broadband services will be delivered by a regulatory Universal Service Obligation and will provide everyone in the UK access to Internet speeds of a minimum of 10 mbps by 2020, which will be two years after the introduction of secondary legislation. The Office of Communications (Ofcom) has determined that this speed is “needed to meet the requirements of an average family.” (Press Release, Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, High Speed Broadband to Become a Legal Right (Dec. 20, 2017).)

Section 65 of the Communications Act 2003 sets out the obligation of Universal Service, to “ensure that the basic communications services which are used by the majority, and which are essential to full social and economic inclusion, are made available to everyone who reasonably requests them at an affordable price.” (Communications Act 2003, Explanatory Notes, ¶ 178, LEGISLATION.GOV.UK; Communications Act 2003, c. 21, § 65, LEGISLATION.GOV.UK.) Section 1 of the Digital Economy Act provides for a “Universal Broadband Obligation” by including broadband services within the scope of the Universal Service Obligation of the Communications Act 2003. (Digital Economy Act 2017.) The impact of this is that, with limited exceptions, everyone across the entire United Kingdom will soon be entitled to receive high-speed broadband services.