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September 13, 2016updated 14 Sep 2016 2:25pm

Local councils back data sharing to allow broadband speed comparison

Digital Economy Bill will see its second reading today in the House of Commons.

By Alexander Sword

An association of local councils has supported plans for Ofcom to be able to require broadband providers to share data so that people can more easily see the speeds they will get in their actual home, rather than just in the local area.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents over 370 councils in England and Wales, lauded the aims for Ofcom be given the power to publish address-level data.

This would allow a single service to be created that users could use to search the speeds of different providers for their individual address in order to make an informed choice of provider.

Currently, the only way that consumers can access this information is by conducting line speed tests on every potential provider’s website.

The plans will be debated today in the second reading of the Digital Economy Bill. The first reading took place on 5 July.

In terms of broadband provision, the bill puts into law the Government’s proposed Universal Service Obligation, setting a floor on the broadband speeds people will be able to receive. Citizens will be able to request a connection that will deliver a minimum download speed of 10Mbps by 2020.

It will also aim to create a unified switching process, so that consumers can switch providers more easily.

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Cllr Mark Hawthorne, Chairman of the LGA's People and Places Board, said:

"The quality of digital connectivity can be markedly different from area to area with some households being able to access superfast broadband speeds whilst others can only achieve substantially less. 

"Our residents can only make the most informed choices if they have all the data at their fingertips in one place."

Other provisions in the bill include the introduction of compulsory age verification for pornography sites and bulk sharing of civil registration data at a request of a Department.

The Digital Economy Bill has been criticised by Shadow Digital Economy Minister, Labour’s Chi Onwurah, who tweeted on the day of the second reading that the bill “takes data sharing to the next level without any specific safeguards or even principles”.

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