I am today laying legislation in Parliament which implements the European Electronic Communications Code Directive.
The importance of electronic communications has been underlined during the COVID-19 pandemic. The UK’s networks are ensuring the connectivity which has underpinned the way society is responding to COVID-19.
We are confident that the positive changes implemented during the pandemic will outlast the pandemic itself. For example, it has clearly demonstrated that technology enables many businesses to be agile, allowing many people to work from home. Technology has also played a critical role in continued learning, and has played a more important role than ever in keeping people in touch with friends, family and others in their communities.
The increased reliance on and use of digital infrastructure brings new expectations around these services, and the infrastructure must keep up with growing levels of demand. Combined with future expectations around new technologies and services including 5G, building future-proofed networks will be essential to our future economy. This is why we are committed to delivering nationwide gigabit-capable connectivity, and the Budget 2020 committed £5 billion investment in gigabit-capable broadband rollout in the hardest-to-reach areas of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The transposition of the European Electronic Communications Code into UK law will help ensure that both the government and Ofcom have the tools required to deliver these ambitions.
The Directive revises the EU telecoms regulatory framework which has underpinned UK telecoms law since 2003. The UK played a leading role in the negotiations for the European Electronic Communications Code prior to its exit from the EU, and in the development of the directives which preceded it, which largely reflect UK best practice. And our commitments in the European Union Withdrawal Agreement require transposition of European Union law until the end of the transition period.
The core objectives of the Directive are to: drive investment in future-proofed networks and communications services through sustainable competition; support efficient and effective use of radio spectrum; and provide a high level of consumer protection. Therefore, the changes introduced in the Directive include new measures that are important to delivery of our digital ambitions. Transposing these changes into UK law will ensure Ofcom’s powers remain operable and reflect recent technological innovation. Some measures are being given effect through alternative legislation, such as the requirements for the security of networks and services.
The changes we are making as part of this SI are a crucial milestone towards our delivery of our digital ambitions. These changes will facilitate a pro-investment regulatory environment, supporting gigabit-capable rollout across the UK.
I therefore lay this instrument in the House today.