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Introduction Tim O'Sullivan

BT launches Manifesto for Communications

Manifesto for Communications 

BT has developed a manifesto which describes what the next government should consider in order that the UK can further build on its lead in communications. We have one of the world’s most competitive communications markets, are ahead on broadband on a number of measures and consumers pay less.

However, any market needs certainty to thrive and the communications sector is no different. A stable regulatory environment helped BT decide to invest more than £3bn in superfast broadband during a recession.

The regulatory environment benefits consumers, who’ve seen prices fall whilst broadband speeds and availability have grown. Ofcom oversees a regime under which BT’s rivals, including Talk Talk and Sky, use BT infrastructure to provide broadband and phone services to their customers. Indeed, in the UK market today, more than 500 companies provide services over BT lines, with prices overseen by Ofcom.

In the last few years, BT has also significantly enhanced tools to help parents keep their children safe online. And with the launch of BT Sport we’ve brought enhanced competition to the market for pay TV.

Our manifesto summarises the things BT wants government to take action on after the general election, to ensure that consumers continue to benefit from what is the most competitive telecommunications market in the world. You can find a link to the manifesto here.

Here is a summary:

1. Drop any plan to restrict the communication industry’s appeal rights against regulatory decisions.

ISSUE

The telecoms industry needs a fair and robust regulatory appeals system.

CHALLENGE FOR THE NEXT GOVERNMENT

To maintain the current Ofcom appeals regime and drop the idea of curtailing appeal rights for our industry. The proposed change could affect investment and might in any case be knocked down by the Supreme Court.


2. Consistent regulatory regime across all bundled services.

ISSUE

A consistent regulatory regime across all bundled services, particularly pay TV, will help consumers.

CHALLENGE FOR THE NEXT GOVERNMENT

Ofcom should be able to regulate pay TV so that consumers get better value; and get the same rights as with phone and broadband when it comes to being able to cancel or challenge mis-selling. The right regulatory framework for further UK success.


3. To achieve maximum fibre broadband penetration, EU State Aid rules for cities must be changed.

ISSUE

The EU Commission allows subsidy to help rollout rural superfast broadband but has set conditions which prevent a similar regime for inner cities.

CHALLENGE FOR THE NEXT GOVERNMENT

Press the EU to look again at state aid rules for broadband in inner cities.


4. Agreement and cooperation between rights holders and ISPs, using existing laws, is more effective and mutually beneficial in tackling copyright infringement than legislation.

ISSUE

The UK needs an environment where creative rights are defended but ISPs aren’t forced to obstruct customers without hard evidence of offending, and punishment should be proportionate.

CHALLENGE FOR THE NEXT GOVERNMENT

Continue to promote collaboration and the ‘Creative Content UK’ initiative, whilst remaining wary of activating Digital Economy Act provisions rushed through in closing days of the last Parliament – they could result in homes being cut off from the internet on the basis of scant evidence and lack of due process.


5. Pubs and clubs must be stopped from using foreign decoders instead of subscribing to licensed UK broadcasters’ sports channels.

ISSUE

Foreign decoders for public viewing enable copyright theft and are protected by a legal anomaly.

CHALLENGE FOR THE NEXT GOVERNMENT

Government should amend the defect in UK legislation which currently grants a defence to those who infringe copyright.


6. Net neutrality regulation could stifle new services.

ISSUE

Net neutrality regulation could end some current services, stifle new ones and threatens UK policy for online child protection.

CHALLENGE FOR THE NEXT GOVERNMENT

With strong competition between ISPs, net neutrality is irrelevant because consumers can switch provider if they find it blocking or delaying content they want. In the UK, ISPs operate under Codes of Practice which, along with Ofcom’s powers, safeguard net neutrality. EU policy should prevent anti-competitive blocking but encourage innovation. UK government needs to defend the current position.


7. Continue partnership approach which has seen major strides over initiatives to keep children safe online.

ISSUE

Children must be protected from unsuitable content and online child-abuse.

CHALLENGE FOR THE NEXT GOVERNMENT

Avoid new legislation and continue to focus on the successful partnership approach with industry – but reform RIPA.



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