Every UK citizen will have the right to access fast broadband services as part of a new bill the government hopes will make the country the most digitally-connected nation in the world.
The Digital Economy Bill, announced yesterday (July 5th), will pave the way for a new Universal Service Obligation that will spell out consumers' right to have a fast internet connection installed upon request.
Initially, the government is defining the minimum speed for this as 10Mbps, but Ofcom will have the power to review this periodically to ensure that it remains adequate as technology evolves in the coming years.
The bill will also give customers the power to switch suppliers with ease, including when they buy multiple services from a provider, and will make sure providers properly compensate their customers if they fail to deliver on what they promise.
Commenting on the bill, digital economy minister Ed Vaizey said: "We want the UK to be a place where technology ceaselessly transforms the economy, society and government. The UK has always been at the forefront of technological change, and the measures in the Digital Economy Bill provide the necessary framework to make sure we remain world leaders."
While nine out of ten homes and businesses in the UK are already able to access superfast broadband, the government noted that ensuring the necessary infrastructure is in place is vital if the UK is to remain a leader in a more digital world.
The bill also includes a number of provisions intended to strengthen protections for citizens and make the digital economy fairer and more secure.
This will include tougher penalties for nuisance callers and emailers who contact members of the public without their consent, while there will also be a requirement for pornogrpahic websites to include age verification solutions, in order to protect children from potentially harmful content.
Parliament is expected to debate the bill in the coming months, with it moving from the Commons to the House of Lords in the autumn. Subject to timetabling, it is set to become law in spring 2017.