Will Tories back Labour’s plan that could come with £300m bill?

The ISP TalkTalk (over whose connection I’m writing this) has made an extremely good point about the Digital Economy Bill, which is set to be debated extremely briefly in the House of Commons during the week:

Clause 14 of the bill demands that customers take “reasonable steps” to prevent their network from being used by hackers for illicit purposes. TalkTalk claims that that would “presumably” be interpreted as a demand for the latest security measures, and calculates that such expense would, spread throughout just half the current number of houses connected to broadband, necessitate approximately £300 million in upgrade costs. This could include new routers, new wifi cards or new gaming consoles. If users do not comply, they could ultimately face disconnection. [Daily Telegraph]

This has all the classic marks of New Labour:

  • Rush a plan through the Commons without proper consideration
  • Create new legal offences but leave unclear quite what they really cover – pity the poor saps who end up being the tests cases so the rest of us can find out
  • Impose hassle and costs on the public in the name of being “tough”

Now, in normal times, a piece of legislation that could result in people having to spend £300 million to stay the right side of the law would have the Conservatives shouting “stealth tax” from the rooftops (or, in these social networked days, the inboxes).

Have you heard such shouts?

Er, … no.

That’d be because so far the Conservatives have said they will support the Digital Economy Bill, New Labour measures and all. However, with the Liberal Democrats demanding change and opposing it being rushed through before the general election and a good handful of Labour rebels, it most likely rests with the Conservatives to decide the fate of proposals such as Clause 14.

So what will the Conservatives do next week? So far the signs look mostly like they’ll go along with the Government and back these measures too, forcing them through despite the Liberal Democrats’ opposition and those of some Labour rebels.

Labservative, anyone?

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