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Digital Economy Bill: 3 Queen’s Speech announcements that matter to UK tech

The Queen’s Speech is never a scintillating affair, but the 2016 address featured a few important announcements amidst all the pomp and circumstance. Here’s what you should know.

The speech, which is delivered by the Queen at the annual State Opening of Parliament in the Palace of Westminster, lays out the key points of the government’s agenda for the forthcoming Parliamentary session. Normally, there’s little to interest those of us in the tech world, but on this occasion there’s a few things actually worth talking about.

From new porn safeguards to more robust broadband legislation and the introduction of the controversial Investigatory Powers Bill (née the ‘Snooper’s Charter’), let’s take a look at what went down.

1) The right to bear (faster) broadbandBroadband

The Queen’s Speech confirmed that the UK government plans to introduce a 10Mbps universal service obligation, or ‘USO’, as part of its Digital Economy Bill set to be published in June or July. That means broadband providers will be legally obligated in the future to offer households a minimum connection speed of 10Mbps, though the deadline for this provision isn’t until 2020. It’s still a bit unclear exactly how the USO will take shape, but it certainly seems like a step in the right direction, even if it’s a rather unambitious target.

More concretely, Ofcom (and, by connection, consumers) will be getting a bunch of new regulatory powers. These include the ability to order providers to release household-level broadband speed data to help consumers make better choices, and a right to automatic compensation when a broadband service goes awry.

Related: Best broadband routers 2016

2) Porn protection at the PalacePorn Block

The second major tech-related announcement revealed in the Queen’s Speech will affect more of us than would care to admit it. Also as part of the incoming Digital Economy Bill, all websites displaying pornographic content will now be required to implement age verification in the interest of child protection.

Smutty surfing isn’t exactly going to get more difficult, just a hell of a lot more inconvenient. At present, responsibility for age verification usually rests with ISPs and individual households, but in the future, you’ll have to confirm your age (likely via credit card) before you reach for the Kleenex, even when visiting free sites like PornHub. Somewhere, Helen Lovejoy is cracking open the Champagne.

3) The ‘Snooper’s Charter’ is coming, whether you like it or not


This one’s not exactly a surprise – no one really thought the government was going to back pedal – but the Queen’s Speech confirmed that the Investigatory Powers Bill (IPB) is incoming. Better known to headline writers as the ‘Snooper’s Charter’, it’s the bit of paper that gives the UK authorities enhanced powers to monitor your online activity, regardless of whether you’re suspected of committing a crime or not.

Related: Snooper’s Charter Explained: Should you care?

Crucially, the IPB will also force ISPs to track and store more of your online activity – and hand it over to the police and other spooky services as required.

What did you make of the Queen’s Speech? Let us know in the comment below.

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