Committee recommends legal right to internet access and introduction of social tariffs

The COVID-19 committee have released a report on examining the rapidly increasing reliance on digital technology and the long-term impact on our social and economic wellbeing. The report warns that more needs to be done to ensure we all benefit from our increasing reliance on digital technology and that it does not lead to increasing inequality and marginalisation. Key points include:

  • 2.8 million households (11%) do not have internet access.
  • 9 million people are unable to use the internet by themselves.
  • 11.7 million lack the digital skills for everyday life.
  • Almost half of non-users have a disability or longstanding health issue.

The recommendations include:

  • Introducing a legal right to internet access and digital infrastructure, which is regulated in a way that gives individuals a suitable right to redress.
  • Those in receipt of income-related benefits should have access to social tariffs and additional payments to help cover water and electric bills. As part of its new hybrid strategy, the Government should work with internet providers to develop a scheme to provide affordable internet, and suitable, safe devices, to those in poverty and on low incomes.

Government seeks to improve rural mobile coverage

DCMS and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government opened a technical consultation on development rights for electronic communications infrastructure. Proposals include increasing the width and height of 5G masts, allow greater flexibility for installing equipment cabinets, and placing masts closer to highways to enable better coverage. The consultation closes on 14th June 2021. In a written statement, DCMS Minister Matt Warman set out the Government’s ambitions further but stated that these proposals would only apply to England.

A Question to the Prime Minister on Superfast Broadband

Ben Spencer MP (Con) asked the Prime Minister whether he shared his ambition that everyone should have access to superfast broadband just as every house should have access to water and electricity. The Prime Minister agreed, stating coverage of reliable gigabit broadband will be at 60% by the end of the year.

Parliamentary Questions on Broadband and the Digital Divide

DCMS have responded to written questions on broadband including upload speeds using satellite broadband. Minister Warman stressed the work the Government is carrying out on the use of satellite broadband highlighting the call for evidence to explore the barriers to improving the broadband of very hard to reach premises and how new technologies such as Low Earth Orbit Satellites could help.


Telecoms Diversification Taskforce publish report on 5G

The Telecoms Diversification Taskforce, overseen by Lord Livingston, published their findings and recommendations for the Government to meet their ambitions set out in the 5G Diversification strategy. The taskforce focuses on mobile but make a point of saying that their future priorities should be on fixed access networks. Key points include:

  • The overall view of the Taskforce is that direct funding for operators to adopt new vendors or Open RAN into their networks is unlikely to be a sustainable approach to achieving diversification in the long term, based on the Taskforce’s view of current market conditions.
  • The Government can derive best value for money by directing funding to support R&D (or incentivising R&D activity in this area), catalysing the UK ecosystem and removing barriers to entry. The Government needs to consider the case for funding activities that move the market in the right direction but should be careful and measured in how it does so to ensure it prioritises promoting healthy, sustainable and competitive behaviours where the UK can participate in the supply chain.
  • Concluded that, as Huawei gradually exits the 5G market, the UK should create the conditions that will attract the entry of at least one, ideally two, additional ‘scale’ vendors.
  • The Government should be clear that diversification is a key priority for Ofcom to consider.  Ofcom should, alongside DCMS, set out its intention to treat diversification as a strategic priority. In the medium term, the Government should provide clarity to Ofcom of its duties in this regard. One mechanism that DCMS may want to consider is to include diversification within Ofcom’s Statement of Strategic Priorities.
  • The Government should start work now to develop a long-term telecoms standards strategy, which will consider all elements of the network. The strategy needs to be cognisant of the broader technology standards that may be relevant in future networks and recognise that the development of telecoms standards that stretch well beyond the telecoms industry.

The Key recommendations included:

  • On securing supply chains, the Government should consider introducing ‘provenance’ standards on vendors as a record of the country and vendor of products. This could include a requirement for operators to declare to the Government any critical dependencies (i.e. single-sourced components) within their vendors’ supply chains.
  • A lack of coordination across Government departments is highlighted in relation to future policy and research and testing. One recommendation is that Government establish an oversight function for all telecoms policy.
  • A lack of coordination across Government departments is highlighted in relation to future policy and research and testing. One recommendation is that Government establish an oversight function for all telecoms policy.

Government’s response to regulating consumer smart product cyber security consultation

Responding to a consultation, the Government has published proposals for putting in place a regulated safety by design framework for consumer IoT products. Key aspects of the new framework include:

  • The new framework will apply to “any network-connectable devices and their associated services that are made available primarily to consumers, except products that are designated as out of scope.”  ISP CPE equipment is neither explicitly in out of scope.
  • For in scope products new security requirements and standards will be put in place and the Government will also have the power to mandate products assurance. New requirements will include a ban on universal passwords, enabling third parties to report vulnerabilities, and transparency around how long a product will be supported.
  • An enforcement regime will be put in place with sanctions could include criminal proceedings.

Alongside the consultation Warman also tabled a Ministerial Statement and we expect that a draft bill will be announced in the Queen’s speech.

Written on question on Sub-sea cables

Stephen Morgan MP (Lab) asked what restrictions DCMS will place on third party access to the data infrastructure contained in the proposed AQUIND subsea interconnector. Warman said AQUIND- which will be a HVDC submarine power cable between France and England- is still in the early stages and that DCMS was assessing the cyber risks involved.

Online Safety

MPs debate online abuse

During a debate on the online abuse of elected female politicians, many MPs called for the Online Harms Bill to be urgently brought forward to combat a number of issues including the high levels of abuse against women including female MPs. Several MPs voiced concerns that the Bill would not go far enough while DCMS Minister Caroline Dinenage assured that it would.

Home Secretary’s warning over Facebook encryption plan

During a speech at the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, Priti Patel warned that Facebook’s plans to roll out encryption across its messaging services could jeopardise ongoing work to combat child abuse.

Other News

Written question on the digital divide

Munira Wilson MP (Liberal Democrat) asked what steps the Government have taken to ensure the elderly are not excluded as a result of the digital divide. Dinenage emphasised the work DCMS are carrying out with industry on social tariffs and supporting vulnerable consumers as well as the digital skills training available to the elderly.

Subgroup news


  • ISPA held a call on ECC and Wayleaves this week covering the recent discussing with DCMS and future engagement with Parliament and the Media. A summary of the call will be circulated next week


  • ISPA has organised a call with DCMS on May 12th to discuss the National Security and Investment Bill. For more information, please email