Will the Tories back Labour’s plan that could land us with a £300m bill?

The ISP Talk Talk (over whose connection I’m writing this) has made an extremely good point about the Digital Economy Bill, which is set to be debated extremely briefly in the House of Commons during the week:

Clause 14 of the bill demands that customers take “reasonable steps” to prevent their network from being used by hackers for illicit purposes. TalkTalk claims that that would “presumably” be interpreted as a demand for the latest security measures, and calculates that such expense would, spread throughout just half the current number of houses connected to broadband, necessitate approximately £300 million in upgrade costs. This could include new routers, new wifi cards or new gaming consoles. If users do not comply, they could ultimately face disconnection. (Telegraph)

One practical example of the problems is the situation for people who have Nintendo DS Lites:

The #debill will mean I can’t use my Nintendo DS Lite to play online as It doesn’t recognise routers on max. security setting. (@MD1500)

This has all the classic marks of New Labour:

  • Rush a plan through the Commons without proper consideration
  • Create new legal offences but leave unclear quite what they really cover – pity the poor saps who end up being the tests cases so the rest of us can find out
  • Impose hassle and costs on the public in the name of being “tough”

Now in normal times a piece of legislation that could result in people having to spend £300 million to stay the right side of the law would have the Conservatives shouting “stealth tax” from the rooftops (or, in these social networked days, the inboxes).

Have you heard such shouts?

Er, … no.

That’s be because so far the Conservatives have said they will support the Digital Economy Bill, New Labour measures and all. However, with the Liberal Democrats opposing it being rushed through before the general election and a good handful of Labour rebels, it most likely rests with the Conservatives to decide the fate of proposals such as Clause 14.

So what will the Conservatives do next week? So far the signs look mostly like they’ll go along with the Government and back these measures too, forcing them through despite the Liberal Democrats’ opposition and those of some Labour rebels.

Labservative, anyone?

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5 Comments

  • Andrew Suffield 3rd Apr '10 - 11:36pm

    To pick another random example: I use Fon. I share my internet access with other Fon users, and in exchange I can walk down the street with my laptop in any large town in any developed nation, and within half an hour find somebody else who does the same thing, whose access I can borrow. In this way, a lot of people have the kind of global roaming internet access that everybody has been expecting for years. It’s usually not very quick, but I can reasonably expect access to my files and email from anywhere, without paying by the megabyte.

    It’s not entirely clear, but clause 14 appears to shut down all UK Fon users, taking the whole country off the shared wireless network.

  • What does `latest security measures` mean? Would AVG free, firewall and weekly spyware check and removal suffice?

  • Andrew Suffield 4th Apr '10 - 8:41am

    Worse yet, far too many of the things that claim to be “WPA2” still have WPA-TKIP enabled, which is a compatibility mode to support legacy devices, and has been partially defeated.

    The only realistic way for most end-users to comply with this regulation would be to pay for expert assistance.

  • Malcolm Todd 4th Apr '10 - 3:34pm

    The only realistic way for most end-users to comply with this regulation would be to pay for expert assistance.

    Indeed, the only realistic way for most of us to have a clue what any of this discussion even means would be to pay for expert assistance…

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