In Other News: This week’s Techlaw News Round-Up

November 1, 2019

Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill has first reading in Parliament

The Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill has had its first reading in Parliament. The bill will provides for new powers to ensure that airports modernise their airspace, and fine those that don’t implement changes quickly enough. The bill will also hand police powers to tackle the unlawful use of unmanned aircraft. This includes giving police the ability to require a person to land an unmanned aircraft, issue fixed penalty notices for certain offences and introduce new stop and search powers where particular offences involving an unmanned aircraft have been committed. Second reading has yet to be scheduled and it is unclear whether the Bill will be carried over to the next parliament after the December general election.

DCMS publishes statement of strategic priorities on telecoms and radio spectrum

The Statement of Strategic Priorities for telecommunications, the management of radio spectrum, and postal services was designated on 29 October 2019, having been laid in draft before Parliament on 18 July 2019. The statement sets out the UK government’s strategic priorities and desired outcomes in a number of areas, including gigabit-capable broadband deployment, 5G, spectrum management, the security and resilience of telecoms infrastructure, and furthering the interests of telecoms consumers. It follows a statutory consultation between 15 February and 27 March 2019.

European Commission publishes self-assessment of Code of Practice on Disinformation 2019

The European Commission has published the first annual self-assessment of the signatories to the Code of Practice on Disinformation. The Commission has received annual self-assessment reports from the online platforms and technology companies Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Mozilla and from the trade association signatories to the Code of Practice against disinformation, detailing policies, processes and actions undertaken to implement their respective commitments under the Code during its first year of operation. The self-assessment reports indicate comprehensive efforts by the signatories to implement their commitments over the last 12 months. As foreseen in the December 2018 Action Plan, the Commission is now carrying out its comprehensive assessment of the effectiveness of the Code of Practice. The Commission will take into account various stakeholder views and present its own comprehensive assessment in early 2020. If the results under the Code prove unsatisfactory, the Commission may propose further measures, including of a regulatory nature.  

HMICFRS publishes report on police and NCA action on cybercrime

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services has inspected how the police and the National Crime Agency deal with threats from cyber-dependent crime and criminals, including hostile state actors, organised crime groups, and those committing online harassment. It has published a report which identified several areas of positive practice. However, HMICFRS identified that the fight against cybercrime is undermined by inconsistencies in the response provided at a local level by forces, and a lack of commitment to future funding. It proposes that by 1 November 2020, the current police structure for the response to cyber-dependent crime should be revised, taking into account: the creation of a national police cyber-dependent crime network; the remit of any such network; how the network engages with other law enforcement agencies; and the tasking and co-ordinating responsibilities that will be required for the network to be effective.

Ofcom issues new proposals on spectrum trading and 5G roll-out 

Ofcom issued a statement in July on enabling wireless innovation through local licensing and announced two new types of licence. These aim to make it easier for users in the UK to access radio spectrum on a shared basis and are the Shared Access Licence and the Local Access Licence. The new licences provide localised access to spectrum bands that can support mobile technology.  Ofcom now proposes to update the spectrum trading and register regulations to include the new licences. The consultation ends on 3 December 2019.

Separately they have also announced updated proposals to release airwaves to meet growing demand for mobile broadband and support the rollout of 5G.  To help improve mobile services and enable more people and businesses to access 5G networks, Ofcom is planning to release more mobile airwaves through an auction in spring 2020. Ofcom is consulting on the proposals until 9 December 2019.  It then plans to publish its final decisions in early 2020.  

Finally they have also published an economic perspective on the challenges and opportunities in regulating online services. This latest paper aims to contribute to the discussion on how to address these harms effectively, drawing on Ofcom’s experience as the UK communications regulator. 

Small-scale Radio Multiplex and Community Digital Radio Order 2019 made

The Small-scale Radio Multiplex and Community Digital Radio Order 2019 SI 2019/1387 has been made. It creates regulatory frameworks for small-scale radio multiplex services, a new category of digital radio transmission, and for community digital sound programme services, a new category of digital radio station. A multiplex is an apparatus for transmitting digital signals and is the means of transmission of digital radio stations. Radio multiplex services are licensed by Ofcom under the Broadcasting Act 1996 – licences are currently awarded either for national or local (county-sized) coverage.