After much debate and criticism, the controversial Digital Economy Act 2010 was rushed through Parliament on 8 April 2010. The new measure contains plenty of benefits for internet users, but also carries some harsh penalties for those caught misusing digital capabilities. The biggest question, though, is how the new act will impact businesses and professional services that depend on the internet for much of their operation.
Despite efforts of some communications giants to bring fast broadband to the nation, the truth is that many places across the UK make do with sluggish connections that don’t even reach 2Mbps.
One of the most exciting provisions of the Digital Act is that every citizen in the UK should have access to at least a 2Mbps connection by 2012. This has some serious implications for businesses.
Small businesses are likely to see the most benefit, as companies located in rural areas will enjoy better connectivity and faster broadband speeds and will no longer have to turn to outsourcing for important tasks. Larger companies and retail outlets with multiple branches and locations will be able to rely on decent connectivity and a minimum base speed wherever they decide to expand. Businesses of all sizes will be able to take advantage of remote working, allowing employees to work from home no matter where they are.
More and better connections means an increase in security threats, and the Digital Act places a lot of responsibility on businesses to protect their portals from illegal use.
Perhaps the most controversial measure of the new law is the provision that holds the owners of internet connections responsible for any illegal activity that occurs over their connection. This includes illegal file sharing, illegal downloads, and misuse of copyrighted materials and intellectual property.
The proviso was meant to stop unlawful activity online, but critics claim it places unfair pressure on connection owners and administrators.
Connection owners would be held responsible for both external hackers and internal users abusing their connections. For example: A pub owner would be held responsible if a patron used the establishment’s Wi-Fi connection to download music files illegally, just as an employer would be liable if an employee used the company internet portal to share copyrighted materials unlawfully.
For businesses, this could pose a real problem, as there is greater risk of illegal usage simply because there are more potential users with easy access to company internet connections. It also encourages hackers, some critics claim, because they’ll just use someone else’s internet connection to engage in illegal activities and the connection owner would be responsible for any fines or penalties incurred.
The penalties for security breaches are severe, another element of the bill that has angered critics. When illegal usage has occurred, the internet connection owner is notified by letter. After three letters, the owner could face substantial fines or even a complete loss of internet connection.
Risks and Rewards
The Digital Act should go far in providing better internet access for citizens all over the nation and in protecting owners of copyrighted intellectual property, but businesses should also be aware of the risks associated with the new law and prepare effective ways to deal with these threats. Devatas International can help businesses of any size in creating strategies to manage the benefits and risks of the Digital Act.