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Fears grow that bill threatening free wi-fi in restaurants and hotels will be fast tracked

06 April 2010 by

A controversial bill that could threaten free wi-fi connections in restaurants and cafes could be rushed through Parliament, as it heads for its second reading in the House of Commons today.

The 24,000-word Digital Economy Bill contains a clause that would allow internet service providers to suspend the connections of households or businesses if they suspect that the connection has been used persistently to download material that infringes copyright.

Campaigners fear that the bill could be speeded through Parliament as part of the ‘wash up' process which sees some parliamentary business completed quickly ahead of a general election. They called for more time for MPs to debate the changes.

But the Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) told the BBC: "The Digital Economy Bill has been extensively debated and scrutinised in the House of Lords, with seven days in Committee and three days in Report Stage. The bill spent three months in the House of Lords, and we have made significant amendments to strengthen and clarify it."

The trade union-led Creative Coalition Campaign (CCC) has taken out newspaper adverts encouraging people to write to their MP to back the bill and warning that more jobs in the creative industries could be lost if more is not done to fight online copyright infringement.

But the opponents the Open Rights Group (ORG) and digital campaigners 38 Degrees have also put out adverts claiming most people have "major worries" about the bill being fast-tracked.

The downside of social networking >>

Technology - get ahead in the cloud >>
Digital Economy Bill has serious consequences for hotels, warns BHA >>
By Neil Gerrard

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