The government has laid out its plans to deal with illegal file-sharers as part of its Digital Economy Bill, outlined in the Queen’s Speech.

It includes the power to disconnect persistent pirates.

But its controversial broadband tax is not mentioned and will be launched as part of the Finance Bill, due next year.

Other elements of the bill include a shake-up of radio spectrum and a classification system for video games.

The bill will, according to the government, "ensure communications infrastructure that is fit for the digital age, supports future economic growth, delivers competitive communications and enhances public service broadcasting".

DIGITAL ECONOMY BILL

  • Legal framework for tackling copyright infringement via education and technical measure
  • Oftcom given powers to appoint and fund independently funded news consortia
  • New duties for Ofcom to assess the UK’s communications infrastructure every two years
  • Modernising spectrum to increase investment in mobile broadband
  • Framework for the move to digital radio switchover by 2015
  • Updating Channel 4 functions to encompass public service content, on TV and online
  • Age ratings compulsory for all boxed video games for those over 12 years

The plans for tackling illegal file-sharing, detailed earlier this year, will be a two-stage process. Initially the government will aim to educate consumers and, those identified as downloading illegal content, will be sent letters.

If this proves insufficient, technical measures which will include the powers to disconnect persistent pirates, will be introduced in the spring of 2011.

Lobby organisation The Open Rights Group is urging people to contact their MP to oppose the plans.

"This plan won’t stop copyright infringement and with a simple accusation could see you and your family disconnected from the internet – unable to engage in everyday activities like shopping and socialising," it said.

Broadband tax

The government will also introduce age ratings on all boxed video-games aimed at children aged 12 or over.

There is, however, little detail in the bill on how the government will stimulate broadband infrastructure.

ANALYSIS
Jane Wakefield, BBC News technology reporter

The Digital Economy Bill represents the culmination of the work done by Lord Carter over the summer to set out a strategy for how the UK can compete in the digital age.

Its plans to cut off file-sharers have been hugely controversial and some believe the government could find itself at odds with European legislation which aims to protect net users from disconnection.

Considering the bill is about stimulating the digital economy there is little detail about broadband infrastructure in the bill.

Given that the UK has languished mid-table at best when it comes to its global broadband performance, this might surprise some commentators it does not form a more key part of a Digital Economy Bill.

The controversial broadband tax will have to wait until the Budget to get its chance to become law.

It is likely to have a tough time as the Tories have already opposed it.

Jane Wakefield

According to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, there will be more details on the future of broadband networks when the bill is published on Friday.

The plan to introduce universal broadband of at least 2 megabits per second is not included.

"It does not need legislation," a spokeswoman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said.

Some £170m has been set aside from the digital switch-over budget to help fund the so-called universal service commitment for broadband.

The most controversial part of the Digital Britain report was a broadband tax to fund next-generation networks. This will form part of the Finance Bill, due after the 2010 budget.

The tax will see the government collect an extra 50p per month for all households with a land-line telephone in order to create a next-generation broadband fund for areas of the country deemed uneconomic for other firms to connect.

At a speech at the NextGen broadband conference in Leeds yesterday, Digital Britain minister Stephen Timms reiterated his commitment for next-generation broadband to reach 90% of the population by 2017.

"The UK is on track to seeing half of households having a choice of next-generation service providers within the next three years. The challenge today is to reach more than two-thirds of the population," he said.


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