UK media fit for the digital era: part I

4 October 2016

Thanks to the work of the last six years, the UK is one of the most digitally advanced countries on earth.

Record investment in our digital infrastructure has delivered the best superfast broadband coverage of any major European economy. Nine out of ten homes and businesses now have access to superfast broadband while having the highest take-up and one of the fastest 4G rollouts. This has helped support our rapidly growing digital economy, which created 2 million jobs in 2014 and recorded £600 billion in online sales.

However, we are not complacent. As the Digital Minister, my goal is to make sure the UK builds the right infrastructure to maintain our position as a world leading digital nation.

This Autumn I’ll be taking the Digital Economy Bill through Parliament – a significant milestone in delivering on our manifesto commitments to build a more connected and stronger economy that works for all.

It will see major improvements in broadband rollout; better support for small businesses; and better protection for our children on the internet.

We made a manifesto commitment at the last election to provide universal broadband. The Bill will legislate to give everyone the right to request access to a fast broadband connection via a Universal Service Obligation. This Conservative Government will not allow people to be left behind in this rapidly evolving digital world. Whether it is running a small business, staying in touch with distant family, or helping children with homework, everyone should have a right to decent connectivity.

Reforms in the Bill will also drive investment in broadband. Communication providers will be able to have access to land on a similar basis to other essential utilities – a long overdue reform.  This will make roll out quicker, and reduce the cost, especially in rural areas, making them more economically viable for competing providers.

The Bill addresses a number of important matters to protect intellectual property in the digital economy. It will bring criminal penalties for digital in line with those for physical copyright infringement, which has been a matter of concern for many individuals and businesses in recent years.

We committed in our Manifesto to “stop children’s exposure to harmful sexualised content online, by requiring age verification for access to all sites containing pornographic material”. This Bill delivers on that commitment, introducing a new requirement in law for commercial providers to have in place robust age verification controls for online pornographic content accessed in the UK.

The UK’s digital economy is growing fast and digital technology is transforming every sector and all aspects of our lives. We are committed to remain a world leader in all things digital and the Bill is an important step in realising this ambition.

Rt Hon Matthew Hancock MP, Minister of State for Digital and Culture

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