July 27, 2012 | Peter Bradwell

Calls for Ofcom to try again with the Digital Economy Act 'Code'

Yesterday was deadline day for Ofcom's consultation on the revised 'Initial Obligations Code' - the instrument that sets out how the Digital Economy Act will work in practice. This is the second iteration of the Code, following an initial consultation back in 2010.

We have put up our submission in our reports section. Thank you if you responded to our call earlier in the week to respond or to submit your story to us.

Since the previous consultation, Ofcom and DCMS have had two years to fix the problems. So it's frustrating that such important problems remain.

In our submission, we note in particular that Ofcom and the government have failed to address to issue of wifi providers, leaving providers of wifi access from cafes, hotels and bars through to libraries and universities with no clarity about their liability. Despite the increasing importance of a widely available 'infrastructure' of publicly available internet access, the Code does nothing to address the position of those providing that access.

We're not a lone voice. Consumer Focus call in their submission for the Secretary of State to withhold approval of the Code in its current form 'because it does not provide legal certainty on reasonable steps or for WiFi providers, business and public bodies which provide internet access to consumers'.

Mike O’Connor, Chief Executive of Consumer Focus said "Ofcom’s draft code does not provide clarity to WiFi providers, businesses or public bodies over who is responsible for copyright infringement carried out through a shared connection. We are concerned that libraries and universities could find themselves incurring significant costs which may result in them deciding to limit internet access. Hotels, pubs and cafes also face legal uncertainty. There is no evidence that significant levels of infringement occur on WiFi networks or the networks of libraries, which provide access to the web for those on low incomes and the 20 per cent of households without internet connection" and that they are "calling on Ofcom produce a revised Code which will respect legitimate consumer rights and help businesses and public bodies to continue to provide internet access to consumers".

Libraries, universities and other research institutions recently called for Ofcom to address the position of wifi providers, arguing that as it stands, the Digital Economy Act risks 'forcing public libraries, schools, colleges and universities to limit access to the internet.' 

We'll post more submissions to the Code as we see them.

We'll also be writing to the Minister Ed Vaizey echoing the calls for him to ensure a definitive solution to the remaining concerns with the Code, and asking him not to approve the Code in its current form.