UK Lords set to capitulate on minimum broadband speeds

In the rush to push the Digital Economy Bill through parliament the House of Lords will reportedly scrap its amendment for a minimum broadband speed of 30 Mbps.

The Bill has been kicking around Westminster for a year, aiming to bring the UK up to date on a wide variety of matters related to the digital economy, from infrastructure, to ecommerce, to internet censorship. One of the signature pieces of legislation is a Universal Service Obligation that, among other things, sets a minimum of 10 Mbps broadband speed for all ISPs.

In February of this year the bill passed to the House of Lords, which introduced a number of amendments including raising that minimum broadband speed to 30 Mbps, arguing that 10 will be too little before long. The government disagreed, as did many ISPs who object to the additional cost of such an arbitrary threshold.

This dispute between the Lords and the government threatened to delay the whole bill but now, according to a report in the FT, the Lords is prepared to back down over this matter in order to allow the bill to go through before the imminent general election. A 2020 deadline for this 10 Mbps minimum will apparently also be dropped, making the whole thing almost entirely pointless.

Instead there will be some kind of open-ended option for the government to raise the minimum broadband speed threshold as and when 75% of households hit 10 Mbps. It’s questionable whether this legislation will have any effect whatsoever on the UK broadband market, which surely was already on track to hit these kinds of numbers anyway.

Much of the Digital Economy Bill increasingly looks like politicians trying to claim credit for private sector activities that would have taken place regardless of their intervention. The fact that legislative due process can be ignored when there are more pressing matters at hand only serves to cement that impression.

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