A House of Lords report has called for the Internet to be reclassified as a public utility.
The upper house of the UK parliament appointed a Select Committee on Digital Skills to investigate the growth of the ICT industry in the country and published the findings earlier this week in a document titled, “Make or Break: The UK’s Digital Future.”
The report argues that the Internet should be defined as a utility service, available for all to access and use, due to its monumental importance to everyday life.
“Digital skills (the skills needed to interact with digital technologies) are now necessary life skills,” it reads. “Individuals and businesses alike will need skills to protect themselves online. It is not acceptable for any group to be excluded from access to digital technologies. We must aspire for the vast majority of the population to achieve the level of digital literacy needed to fully participate in society.”
Although it is not explained what legal changes would need to occur in order to reclassify the web, the House of Lords does highlight Estonia as a prime example of recognising the Internet’s importance. The Eastern European nation listed online access as “an undivided part of human rights” in 2000, which essentially meant the Internet must be made available free-of-charge via public libraries.
The document also warns against the UK falling behind other countries when it comes to high-speed Internet access. The prevalence of Internet “not-spots,” in particular, was highlighted as a potential threat to business growth, both in “trading internationally and in developing e-commerce business”.
Although the government’s £5 billion investment plan to improve mobile infrastructure by 2017 was praised, the report stresses that the UK must not become complacent regarding its digital skill set. With a general election on the horizon, there is clearly an opportunity for the next government to place the UK’s digital economy at the top of its agenda.