How much will Britain's spy law really cost?

The Home Office has issued an Impact Assessment, looking into the price of the proposed Investigatory Powers law, which would allow government agencies to intercept digital communications.

Secretary of State Theresa May's department estimates a price of some £247m over a 10-year-period to cover the costs of the spy law, but according to The Register, which calls upon industry sources, little to no consultation has taken place so far. The true price of the bill can be significantly larger and can go up to £2 billion, with the bulk of finances going to telecom firms to cover the costs of storage.

In another scenario, the telecoms could be forced to suck up any hidden costs, which could in the end mean higher prices for customers.

The £2 billion estimate is made taking into account Labour's Interception Modernisation Programme which carried a £2bn price tag, and May's Communications Data Bill which would have cost an estimated £1.8bn.

"The current £247m does not take into account the potential costs for interception of bulk personal data and hacking into computer systems. Costs associated with those "policy provisions" are marked as "N/K" – not known,” The Register writes in the report.

Still, the compensation costs of some £859m to be paid to telecoms over the course of 10 years were mostly dismissed by the industry, saying the estimates were too speculative.

May's department said in its latest Impact Assessment that: “There would be minimal increases above existing baseline costs for interception, equipment interference, and bulk personal data.”

The Home Office added in its assessment of the spy law: “The costs of the Bill are primarily in relation to increased cost of establishing a new oversight body (led by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner), including accommodation, overheads, running costs, and the administration of a new warranty process.

The provisions in the Bill in relation to internet connection records and the request filter for communications data have associated costs to business, which are reimbursed by government.”