In what is likely to be the final round for the next few months, the Digital Economy Bill was considered in the House of Lords yesterday afternoon and the Commons amendments were, eventually, accepted. An attempt was made by a small group of Lords to re-visit some of the widely acknowledged flaws within the bill by additional amendments, but these were quickly rejected.
This will bring to conclusion the current phase of the legislation, although the Conservatives have suggested that many of the issues would need to be re-visited early in a new parliament. Labour on the other hand had to accept that in order to get the Finance Bill through the wash-up process, it had to drop the 'broadband tax', a 50 pence per month levy on phone lines to help fund next-generation broadband for the more rural areas. It promised that if it wins the general election, it will re-introduce this measure in a new finance bill in the next few months.
There is no doubt that the way in which the Digital Economy Bill was passed through parliament with very little scrutiny by our democratic representatives has made many people more aware of how our legislative processes work, and may encourage them to get more involved in politics.
During the debate in the Commons earlier this week, it was suggested that 'powerful ISPs' were behind the campaigns which presented a quite vocal opposition to the bill, presumably given public pressure from companies like TalkTalk and BT. What seems to have passed by unnoticed was the large number of donors to the joint Open Rights Group and 38degrees campaign which included adverts in the national press which was far less about powerful companies, and more about the digitally engaged.