UK Digital Economy Act

UK Digital Economy Act received Royal Assent and became the law. Although it apparently extends only to the territory of the United Kingdom, whatever this means in the virtual world, the law contains several ideas that indicate the direction in which the regulation of the Internet is likely to take place.

In particular, the law establishes the obligation of sites hosting pornographic and similar adult content to verify visitors' age.

It is, however, not clear how such verification is going to work in practice. Various options were considered: delegation of the age verification to post offices, verification by credit card data, the electoral roll and pay-monthly mobile phone contracts.

The problem is that each of these options involves access to personal information about users which, and government seems to admit this, is a step too far. It is necessary, therefore, to find a way to verify the age without disclosing the visitor's identity.

This problem has not been solved yet. Accordingly, some time will pass before this part of the law becomes enforceable.

Also, the law contains a curious provision that effectively elevates the access to high-speed Internet to the level of basic rights. UK Digital Economy Act obliges Internet providers to ensure that everyone has access to the Internet with a speed of at least 10 Mbps.

This is not a problem for, maybe, 97% of the UK population. It is not clear how this right will be provided to those 3% who live in remote areas. Who will pay for the delivery of Internet signal to secluded homes in Scottish highlands and how "reasonable cost" to the provider will be determined has not yet been decided.