Agenda for Action in the UK:  Continued



4.122 The Newspaper Society said that it did not "see the end of newspapers in the medium or even long term ... we see electronic publishing in its various forms as a means of enhancing what we already have" (Q 352).

4.123 News International has been one of the pioneers of newspaper publishing on the Internet, where both The Times and The Sunday Times are available on-line. Despite the present lack of profitability of the on-line versions of these newspapers, News International justified their investment on the grounds that they were "busy investing in the future". In particular, they saw a distinct trend away from newspaper readership and towards other sources for news information and entertainment amongst young people. "We feel that this shift away from newspaper reading really can be likened to the shift from the oral tradition to the written tradition: we are now witnessing a similar shift to the computer literate tradition, and it is just as fundamental." They thought that Internet customers would be in addition to newspaper readers (QQ 957, 959, 962). The traditional newspaper industry, both in the United Kingdom and in the United States, also feared that the classified market would move swiftly towards on-line, and it had recently been predicted that American newspapers were likely to lose half their profitability in the next five years because of the impact of the Internet. "If that is true, that is a significant shift, and that is another reason we are interested in these markets. We are not just interested in reaching readers, we need to take the advertisers with us" (Q 967).

4.124 Butterworths British and Irish publishes a total of 1,000 titles with 200 new titles issued each year. Over recent years it has placed increased emphasis on the development of electronic products, including CD-ROM and Lexis on-line products and services. Butterworths regarded the development of the Information Superhighway as "a crucial stage in the evolution of publishing." They warned, however, that if it is to become "more than an electronic mail and marketing infrastructure, the Information Superhighway must offer a profit incentive to prospective information providers and a spend incentive to prospective customers. Without these commercial drivers, the impact of the Information Superhighway on commerce and industry, and its influence on society's values, will be limited".

4.125 Butterworths recommended that governments should encourage telecommunications and computer suppliers and information providers to work with Microsoft to establish a second tier infrastructure based on Microsoft Network. The second tier infrastructure would create a high quality, paid for, business information service in addition to the existing low cost, easy access information services available on the Internet. They suggested that providers of business information services would be subject to commercial practice rules and pay administrative and information management charges, and that users of these services would pay subscription or transaction charges (p 581). News International foresaw the development of subscription-based, high quality on-line services, personalised to the requirements of individual customers (Q 969);[1].

4.126 In January 1996 the Institute of Physics (IoP) became the first publisher in the world to offer all its 31 learned journals on-line. The electronic version is included in the price of an institutional subscription to the printed version, and anyone in that institution can access the electronic version on their local terminal. Planned developments include links to errata, corrigenda and addenda and hypertext linking of references. Most sales are overseas. A pilot project had suggested that an electronic version could halt a decline in institutional sales. The IoP had run "a very large survey of research physicists worldwide and they were very clear that they wanted properly refereed and edited journals whatever medium is used for publication, and despite the growing use of less formal communications through electronic preprints and bulletin boards". The IoP were concerned that printed books and journals attracted zero-rate VAT, but "the exact same content offered on-line" attracted full-rate VAT, thereby discouraging the use of modern technology. Furthermore, electronic publishing could not provide a quick fix for the decreased funding of university libraries (QQ 696-697, 699).

4.127 The British Library said that traditionally the learned societies had put "a great deal of effort into indexing the literature of science, so that in the print-on-paper mode we are able to find articles of interest. The learned societies and other scientific organisations are going to have to rethink that mapping and indexing to enable that searching to be more effective in the electronic media" (Q 227). There was widespread recognition that this issue needed to be gripped both nationally and internationally (Q 193).

4.128 The Director General of the British Library, Mr Russon, reported that there was a range of views at an international conference on scientific electronic publishing of what "the scientific archive should house--should it be restricted to strictly peer-reviewed journals or should it extend to every jotting that a scientist made on the superhighway on a bulletin board? I think there was clear agreement that the priority requirement is for genuine peer-reviewed electronic publications, but there are those who would argue that it should go much deeper than that, and indeed technology would allow it to go much deeper than that. I remain to be convinced that the system would not just collapse under its own weight if one tried to collect every jotting that everyone ever made" (Q 204).

4.129 Mr Russon suggested that one way of encouraging the growth of electronic journals would be for the Funding Councils' research assessment exercises to take account of such journals as a legitimate publishing medium (Q 240). Another catalyst for the creation of an electronic journal would be if embedding some of the data in electronic form within the journal became a critical way of presenting the results of a particular piece of research (Q 243).


4.130 The CCA said that most of the cable companies were developing local channels which would provide an opportunity to focus on the local level, as distinct from the regional level on which terrestrial channels tended to focus (Q 53). They contended that as cable installation costs were generally extremely low compared with other operators, and as cable usage costs were generally between 15 and 30 per cent cheaper than other operators, cable became the network of choice for operating any kind of a "kiosk" system (Q 93).

4.131 Microsoft said that America On-line's business had attracted "6 million consumers dialling up on their home PCs". These people had been attracted by easy access to information, including educational information, "but the big thing that kept people coming back was the ability to form on-line communities, to meet people in a common interest, whether it be travel to Alaska or gardening or political debate, and through the technology people can share information on the bulletin board or have real-time, on-line chats." Microsoft emphasised the importance of the community aspects of the Internet as "a nice, clean, well-lighted, friendly place to go" in an era when there was often little sense of community elsewhere (Q 371).


4.132 Several witnesses thought that the adoption of agreed standards was important for the development of the information superhighways (eg p 309). The University of Warwick considered that solutions to technical problems would be "of little or no value if they do not correspond to worldwide standards" (p 306). The ECN said "the issue is about software standards on the network itself" (p 216) rather than network standards, as these would be determined by the market. The PSI, however, warned that although markets could establish standards quickly, "the establishment of incompatible systems based solely on market dominance can retard progress" (p 259). The PSI referred to the current incompatibility of cellular networks, and called for Government action to promote the establishment of standards.

4.133 The British Standards Institute (BSI) said that there could be problems when sending information across different networks as there was as yet no convergence between two message standards which were regularly in use in the United Kingdom and USA. It was "often necessary to use ... shareware [free software made available by individuals], with its attendant risks, in order to send information in electronic form over the Superhighway" (p 171). The Internet Society and the International Standards Organisation (ISO) had now started working on converging the sets of standards, but this was expected to take some time.

4.134 Other areas of activity included the World Wide Web and informal standards which were being developed by the World Wide Web Consortium. The BSI warned that "the United Kingdom will be disadvantaged unless United Kingdom organisations take an active part in this consortium" (p 172).

4.135 The European Informatics Market (EURIM) supported a system of open standards (originally proprietary standards which were later made available for all to use). EURIM said that it "would like to see Governments and standards bodies place greater interest on the need for vendors to agree standards prior to investment". Trying to set standards later was often much more difficult because of the investments which had already been made (p 221).

4.136 The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said that agreed standards could create "more disadvantages than advantages. If the standard creates a big market and creates market opportunities, that is good because companies working in Europe need the size of market to repay investment. On the other hand, however, if it constrains what they do, if it limits innovation or prevents them differentiating their service offering from each other, then the standard is probably unhelpful." The Government should not have a say in standards, except in the few cases where there were strong regulatory reasons. In general it should be left to the market players to decide what standards they needed to make the business work. In the DTI's view the traditional standards-making process was "effective but slow" (QQ 3-4). At an international level, however, the International Telecommunications Union was "just too slow" (Q 13).

4.137 OFTEL said that "with regard to network competition ... we have scoped the problems, we know what they are, we are tackling them and to the extent there are standards and interconnection issues outstanding, they are not because engineers cannot solve them, but because accountants and business managers cannot come to agreements." (Q 27) The CCA did not see a lack of internationally agreed standards as the real inhibitor of growth of the information superhighway. The main barrier to development was the need to understand user needs (Q 73).


4.138 The Standing Conference of National and University Libraries (SCONUL) said that content for the information superhighway and CDROMs publications was increasingly in multimedia format, but "it currently appears that the creation of multimedia products is unduly hampered by the need to gain a large number of copyright permissions from a great variety of sources" (p 291). SCONUL suggested that there might be a case for a carefully controlled relaxation of copyright in particular circumstances and called for an examination of the topic (p 291). Dow Jones Telerate Ltd suggested that the level of originality needed to gain copyright protection should not be set too high (pp 209-210). De Montfort University described copyright in relation to images in particular as being "highly complex" and said that the law needed better definition (p 97).

4.139 SCONUL also raised the issue of ethics and copyright, highlighting that the digital environment could allow publishers (in the course of collecting a use or copyright fee) to monitor who had accessed what material and maintain records of the access which might then be put to other uses. SCONUL said: "Copyright in published material must of course be adequately protected, but adequate protection must not be advanced as a reason to restrict unduly or to monitor the private or educational use of information". It added that "the balance of protection must not, in our view, be readjusted too far in favour of the publisher" (p 291).

4.140 Dow Jones Telerate Ltd said over-regulation of copyright could lead to market distortion (p 209) and that "products with identical content should be protected in the same way regardless of the mode of delivery" (p 209). There was, however, a clear need for copyright: "The expectation of reward for creative effort and investment is the incentive to create and innovate. The continuing expansion and improvement of the `superhighway' infrastructure itself and the improvement of services and data provided on that network, can be ensured only by rewarding creation and innovation" (p 211).

4.141 News International emphasised that the central issue relating to copyright was that of enforcement. "The risk of copyright infringement increases enormously with digital technology. It is not only a matter of getting the protection right in the first place, but ensuring effective means of enforcement are available. While that might be the case in the UK at present it is far less clear in many foreign countries and that is something we need to address" (Q 998). Mr Taylor, the Minister for Science and Technology, agreed. "Although I think many of our laws are in place in the UK and at the European level and things are going in the right direction, it is observance of the laws and how you pull up a country that is being less than compliant in observing those laws that is the problem". Mr Taylor drew attention to the existence of "watermarking" technologies, enabling the identification of non-authorised recordings, as a possible way forward (QQ 1024-1025).

4.142 The Library Association said that copyright was a major issue in developing superhighway applications: "there is a danger that the potential [of a global information infrastructure] will not be fully realised until mechanisms are incorporated into the network for the protection of intellectual property" (p 253). For example, "There is no provision in United Kingdom copyright law which gives librarians or their users any rights to deliver information in electronic form ... If permission is not given, traditional methods of delivery still have to be used. Copyright is therefore seen by librarians as a barrier to full network use" (pp 253-4).

4.143 The Library Association policy with regard to material in electronic form was that, in general, libraries and librarians should be able to do with it what they already do with material on paper, eg, lend, copy for the purposes of electronic delivery, copy for members of the public for personal education or research use, permit limited general copying, allow public browsing of material and general access on site or remotely, all without incurring charge or seeking specific permission (pp 254-255).

4.144 The Library Association also called for legislation to allow the conversion of copyright protected texts and images into digital form for preservation and conservation purposes, and for legislation to provide for the legal deposit of certain electronic media.;[2]

4.145 The Newspaper Society emphasised that publishers would only invest in new media products if there was an appropriate legal environment to allow them to recoup their investment.;[3] They saw the Government's upholding in European Union negotiations of the Anglo-Saxon tradition of copyright ownership, moral rights and eligibility for copyright protection as vital (QQ 343-344), as did Microsoft (Q 368).

4.146 The DTI said that the question of intellectual property rights with regard to equipment was specifically within their area of responsibility (Q 21). M Verrue of the European Commission said that intellectual copyright issues could only be dealt with at a very broad international level. The Commission hoped that EU Member States would be able to agree a consensus view amongst themselves on the various copyright and copyright-related issues, which would help the debate within WIPO (QQ 644-645).


4.147 The Royal Academy of Engineering identified security and privacy of information as a key issue in the electronic information debate, and thought that legislation was needed to protect sensitive data. It also called for the regular up-dating of legislation to prevent the unlawful accessing of data, whilst accepting that this would be a difficult area to police (p 75). The British Library agreed that Government action was needed in these areas at both national and international level (Q 216). The British Medical Association stressed the importance of security in maintaining public confidence in health care networks, and said that it was "fundamental that privacy is at the centre of our concerns" (Q 426). The Department of Health said that they were "determined to protect the confidentiality of health data but ... [were] determined also to balance the risks against costs" (Q 448).

4.148 Dr John Taylor, Director of Hewlett Packard Research Laboratories Europe and Chairman of the Technology Foresight ITEC Panel, said that "one of the recommendations we would make very strongly is that we should really open up the availability of strong, end to end encryption to the mass of business, commercial users and so on as quickly as possible, subject to the right kind of safeguards. I do not think that the Internet could develop without the equivalent of sealed envelopes. If we tried to develop the postal service with just postcards, it might have been somewhat handicapped. The next main feature that we need to give is end to end security so that people can have a much higher degree of confidence in the fact that their information is protected. When that becomes available, we understand the design of fire walls and the networking will change. Fire walls at the moment are there on the basis that you have not got any other kind of security. When you have got other kinds of security, then the architecture changes and there will be quite a rapid evolution." (Q 657) He believed that high grade security was going to be essential in the digital world, moving towards military security for business operations (QQ 663-668).

4.149 Microsoft called on the British Government to take a leading role on encryption by implementing best practice (Q 368). Students were breaking the present level of encryption "within a couple of hours as a joke". Without adequate encryption electronic commerce, which could be of particularly great benefit to disabled people, the elderly and those in rural areas, would "not grow as vibrantly as it should" (Q 390). Microsoft emphasised the need for improved encryption to secure both business and consumer confidence: "you need to reach some sort of framed environment where people feel secure that by putting their Access number on this or instructing their bank about that or even sending some e-mail to mum, it is not going to be read and accessed by the great unjust out there" (Q 392). At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, however, Dr David Clark (a Senior Research Scientist) said that what was required were levels of encryption appropriate to the material being transmitted, rather than adopting militarygrade security measures where they were not needed.;[4]

4.150 The DTI said that they were involved in discussions about encryption at the European Union level because the European Commission had issued proposals about electronic trading using encryption. There had also recently been moves within OECD to try to agree matters at the international level (Q 25). In June 1996 the Government announced its proposal for the licensing of Trusted Third Parties providing encryption services for business. This policy was drawn up after detailed discussions between Government Departments and aims to provide secure communications for industry and commerce whilst safeguarding law enforcement requirements through warranted interception (pp 527-529, 554, 557).

4.151 The Newspaper Society thought that the present lack of confidence that transaction methods on the Internet were sufficiently secure was holding back the development of on-line newspapers (QQ 349-350).

4.152 BT and NatWest both considered that the "problem" of security and encryption was more apparent than real (QQ 553, 556-557). NatWest equated the risk of passing card details over the Internet with passing on the same details during a telephone or mail transaction. The level of fraud for such transactions represented about 5 per cent of the total card fraud in the United Kingdom (£4.3 million in 1995) (p 612). BT said that because encryption was now available through silicon chip technology it could be provided at a very much lower cost than in the past. This meant that encryption was "no longer the significant barrier that it might have been at one time". The rapid growth in popularity of Intranets, providing Internet services to closed user groups such as individual companies or communities, also helped to reduce the scale of the security problem (QQ 518, 530). Mr Taylor, the Minister for Science and Technology, believed that security considerations meant that the growth of Intranets would outrank Internet growth (Q 1019).

4.153 Verification was highlighted as an important issue by many witnesses (eg pp 169, 245 and 281, 612-613, 622-623). The problems with verification of information were twofold: first being able to identify genuine products or sources of information, and second, judging whether the information itself was correct. The most basic level of verification was correctly associating an Internet address with that of a reputable company or individual, which would necessarily depend on how the Internet addresses were allocated. The system in the United Kingdom was described by Intervid Ltd. as "a sort of controlled anarchy" (p 245) exercised by a small committee of Internet professionals, although this was an apparent improvement on the system in the USA where anyone could apply for any name.

4.154 The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) highlighted the problem of verifying medical information available on the Internet: "There is no control over the quality of healthcare information available on public information pages or bulletin boards. Medical advice may be inaccurate or unsafe" (p 281). They suggested that one role for Government should be to provide guidelines for "kite marking" and verifying information for public use (p 283).

4.155 Verification is also important in the context of security of payment for goods and services over the Internet. The CBI described security of payment as "fundamental to the enabling of electronic commerce" and said that retailing over the information superhighway had not reached its full potential as a result (p 193).

4.156 NatWest said that the requirements for electronic commerce were two fold: the ability to authenticate the parties involved on each end of the wire, and the secure transfer of value between two parties (p 612). Visa said that it had been working on the development of open standards for Secure Electronic Transactions (SET) with MasterCard, Microsoft, Netscape, IBM and others. SET was likely to be available by the end of the year and as a result, Visa expected that "electronic commerce will grow exponentially" (p 622). NatWest, however, was cautious because of the level of encryption it incorporated and the current restrictions on its use: "SET proposes to employ 1024 bit RSA, a very strong level of encryption, but one which will require US export approval if it is to become part of a global standard. It is clearly essential to the development of secure electronic commerce that this export approval is forthcoming" (p 613). NatWest itself had developed the Mondex card, which had "very secure chip card technology which will allow, or can allow, both the authentication of the parties involved and a secure transfer of value between two valid Mondex "purses"." (Q 548) The Technology Foresight ITEC Panel emphasised the importance of encryption technology in guaranteeing authenticity and tamper-proof status and preventing illegal copying (QQ 674, 682).

4.157 Visa called on the Government to take action on verification and security and suggested two key areas that should be addressed: "removing barriers to using encryption technology that hinder security on the Information Superhighway; [and] passing legislation recognising digital signatures as valid means for entering into contracts" (p 624).

4.158 Several witnesses complained about US restrictions on the export of encryption algorithms. News International, which thought that "encryption is going to be absolutely central to the commercial development of ... [on-line] services", said that there were many national restrictions on the export and use of encryption. The United States was the most important example because of its lead in the development of new technology (QQ 971, 973).

4.159 In the USA, encryption is perceived as one of the main problems with the information superhighway at present.;[5] The Information Technology Association of America said that the ban on exporting software from the USA which included high levels of encryption could cost its members $65 billion by the year 2000. Similar restrictions in the United Kingdom might thus have similar consequences. Questions were also being asked in the USA about which authorities should have access to keys for decrypting material, under what situations such keys should be used and who would be liable should the keys be misused (accidentally or otherwise).


4.160 The Science and Technology Minister Ian Taylor MP has said that the Internet industry must address public concern about undesirable and illegal material available on the Internet if it is to avoid demands for inappropriate legislation. "The Government's preference is for a voluntary approach. The most effective way of influencing the development of the Internet is to enlist the help of the industry; it is in their own commercial interest to meet public concerns. An imposed regulatory regime is not likely to solve all our problems. It could also hamper the emergence of new and innovative companies and services ... The Internet was designed to survive a nuclear attack--and is likely to prove a challenge to effective regulation.";[6]

4.161 The Home Office said that Special [police] Branches across England and Wales were aware of the growing presence on the Internet of extremist groups such as the British National Party. The material placed there most frequently reproduced information and opinions which were published legally elsewhere and the police therefore did not become involved. Also of concern was racist material which was produced abroad, particularly in the United States. Some of this material might have attracted criminal prosecution had it been produced in the United Kingdom but it fell outside the police's jurisdiction. Although the Metropolitan Police Special Branch and other Special Branches across England and Wales used the Internet for intelligence gathering about race hate material there was no specific monitoring.

4.162 The Home Office said that material passing over the Internet was subject to the same laws as material being distributed by other means. The Government was concerned to see whether enforcement of the laws over the Internet raised particular problems which could be addressed by legislative change, and was determined to ensure that domestic legislation would not lag behind technological advances. The Internet's global character, however, meant that the impact of legislation was difficult to predict. The Home Office pointed out that material stored on Internet hosts overseas was available with little more expense or trouble than that sourced from within the United Kingdom, and the Government had to consider the possible effect of new domestic legislation on the United Kingdom Internet industry, compared to the impact on the availability of illegal material. The Government would urge the Internet Service Providers' Association to implement a Code of Practice, including the behaviour of Internet service providers when faced with unacceptable material on the Net, as soon as possible.

4.163 The Home Office concluded: "it is important to distinguish between illegal material and material which is legal but which some would find offensive. Self-regulation is an appropriate tool to address the latter. Dealing with illegal material is a matter for the courts and the law enforcement agencies. The Government notes the dialogue between the police and some Internet service providers and would like to see this developed constructively for the benefit of the Internet and society generally" (pp 603-604).

4.164 CompuServe said that as an access provider they did not accept liability for the content on their network unless they were informed of some illegal activity (QQ 799-800). The CCA said that a number of cable companies had used gateway software to filter out certain Internet material being accessed in schools. "However, we fundamentally do not believe that it is the role of the network operator to be the policeman of the system. We think that we really are very unsuited to it. We are not trained to be censors. We are not accountable to anybody ... We think this is something which needs serious debate amongst regulators and government". They recommended following Oftel's example in working for the development of the self-regulating body the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services (ICSTIS) which set the telephone industry's own code of behaviour for material which is allowed to go out over sex or chat lines. They acknowledged, however, that the need for international regulation created additional complications (Q 114).

4.165 The Policy Studies Institute said that "the online environment confuses censors because it has both private and public elements and in the light of that two clear principles should be observed. Publicly available material should be subject to the same laws as other content while private and semiprivately available material (such as discussion groups) should be subject to the same rules as the telephone ... leaving censorship to service providers is not a tenable longterm strategy. If we accept that it is appropriate to have bodies like the British Board of Film Censors and the Broadcasting Standards Authority, then it is almost certainly appropriate to have some mechanism to control, or at least to monitor, the standards of the material made available over publiclyaccessible electronic networks" (p 260).

4.166 Christian Action Research and Education (CARE) expressed concern over the nature of material available on the Internet, and called for voluntary international action based on a code of practice monitored by an international standards organisation with a similar approach to the UK-based ICSTIS. CARE said that clear, consistent and enforceable rules on pornography were required. Immediate action needed to be taken against threatening e-mail, the existence of child pornography (both pictures and text) and against sexually violent material being distributed on the Internet. There was currently a lack of resources being devoted to enforcement on these matters (p 178).

4.167 The NCET said that a number of educationally-oriented Internet service providers offered a protected area or "walled garden" in, for example, a Netscape environment of educationally suitable sites with useful subject materials. These services usually provided a reasonable amount of protection against undesirable material (p 98, Q 260).

4.168 An alternative to the probably impossible task of reaching universal agreement on censoring the World Wide Web has been developed by the Platform for Internet Content Selection (PICS), which uses labelling technology to allow users to identify categories of information which they do not wish to see (Q 377). The system is dependent on content providers rating their own material or on third parties rating material (p 608). The Home Office said that the Government wished the provision of protective software and filtering technologies to become more widespread, in part because they avoided "heavy handed regulation which could damage the Internet's role as a driver of competitiveness" (p 604). CompuServe called on the Government to express its support for PICS, which would be adopted as the industry standard for "adult material" (QQ 771, 789-790). They warned, however, that for "the stuff that really is illegal" PICS was not a solution. "You cannot rely on criminals to classify their content." (Q 799)

4.169 ICSTIS said that Internet screening solutions such as PICS were not foolproof and could be subject to abuse. The pressure to rate material in order to ensure it could be widely accessed might tempt some content providers to mis-rate material in order to maximise opportunities for it to be accessed. In the premium rate telephone services sector the fact that access to "adult material" was restricted to certain codes had led some service providers to try to mask material and present it as something other than an adult service so as to avoid the tighter restrictions which applied. ICSTIS said that it was not clear how users would be able to register complaints if content on the Internet was mis-rated or what action could be taken against content providers who might abuse the rating system in this way. It concluded "it is unlikely that one single solution will present itself as the `killer application' for regulation and control. It is more likely that a package of measures will develop which perhaps combines the best of what technology has to offer with the strengths of an effective and flexible Code of Practice and system of industry regulation." (pp 608-609)

4.170 De Montfort University said that "clarification and simplification are required in the area of limitation of liability in matters of libel and unsuitable material. Institutions which take due diligence to implement internal regulation and good practice should be protected from legal action in respect of aberrant behaviour of individuals over whom they have no control" (p 197). UCISA also expressed concern on this matter, particularly in relation to bulletin board providers and whether they were to be liable for what individual students might use the service for. UCISA called for the adoption of a legal framework in the United Kingdom to remove any doubts over liability (p 300).


4.171 A report by the Consultative Committee of Experts of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) on the Use of Modern Computer Technologies, such as the Internet, for Inter-Parliamentary Communications considered that "national parliaments, for whom access to information has always been a critical factor, are particularly well placed to benefit from the increased information accessibility and transparency offered by the Internet. Because it is truly global, the Internet makes possible low-cost communications with people and organizations around the world, thus enhancing the visibility and accessibility of parliamentary institutions. Regular use of the Internet would result in reduced costs of communications between national parliaments as well as with the IPU.";[7]

4.172 The IPU Committee also pointed out that "as national parliaments and the IPU produce and distribute printed information in large quantities, it is likely that electronic publishing on the Internet would significantly reduce distribution costs in comparison with the traditional methods of printing and distribution on paper. Not only does the Internet make it possible to deliver information to a large and growing population interconnected by low-cost electronic superhighways at a fraction of the cost of distribution on paper, but it does so in a more environment-friendly way".;[8]

4.173 Reuters called on Parliament to set an example by making greater use of the Internet and electronic publishers to disseminate transcripts of the proceedings of the Houses of Parliament and Select Committees; calls for evidence, including the ability to take responses electronically, and the contents of documents deposited in the parliamentary libraries and which are suitable for publication (p 275).

4.174 John Tomlinson MEP emphasised the potential for Internet use in the democratic process. "The Internet is an opportunity for supposedly open government to become just that. In representative democracy ... it is the right of every citizen to know exactly what their elected representative is doing on their behalf, and to have access to information about the process through which decisions are taken, as well as the decisions themselves. This is important not just in ensuring that our citizens are informed about the society in which they live, but it also gives them the opportunity to partake in the process through lobbying of their elected representatives, and ultimately through casting an informed vote at election time. Such participation is an essential pillar of democracy, as is the accountability that it helps to progress." He stressed how cheap it could be to provide parliamentary information on the Internet. "For my own web site,;[9] the initial set up cost was £50. My monthly rental of the disk space required for the web site is £20 ... I currently have over 350 pages of information within my web site ... The pages are accessed from citizens of all 15 Member States of the European Union and beyond. Since launching the service my pages have been accessed over 10,000 times,;[10] working out at an average of 300 a day for the month of January when the service was launched." (p 296)


4.175 Many witnesses called on the Government to exercise leadership in the field of IT (pp 168, 190, 203, 237, 250, 262-3, 278, 295, 306), especially in education (Q 397), to promote awareness and to build a vision with practical policies and responses (Q 313). The BCS stated that "Leadership is the most critical of all roles the Government could play" (p 168). The PSI said that creating a suitable policy framework should be a key role for Government, but that action so far had been limited, with little evidence that the Government had recognised either the magnitude of the changes or the need to take a positive lead. The PSI also said that the Government was, as yet, making "relatively little contribution" to the creation of the EU policy framework, although this framework would speed the transition into the information society (pp 262-4).

4.176 The PSI expressed its concern over the current status given to the information superhighway in the United Kingdom: "The Government does not appear to be giving high priority to the creation of the superhighway. Responsibility is dispersed among a number of different departments" (p 263). The CBI also identified the "fragmentation of responsibility for information policy amongst government departments" as a problem and considered that there was "scope for a coordination mechanism responsible for information initiatives and national resources, reporting to the Cabinet" (p 195).;[11]

4.177 ICL identified a need to ensure that the government exhibited and promoted best practice with its own staff and that policies across government were made in the full light of the capabilities of new technology (p 230). The Library and Information Commission pointed out that here too there were differences in the approaches adopted by different departments. "Whereas some departments have impressive Web pages, with links to other information sources, others have no Web page and are not even connected to e-mail" (p 250). The Scottish Office saw the opportunity of receiving direct feedback electronically from members of the public who used its Internet pages as a potential benefit (p 287).

4.178 The IDPM favoured "a major national exercise to produce an agenda for action focused on the preconditions for the successful development and application of IT, including the skills needed at all levels by both the suppliers and the users" (p 237). The IDPM added that the Government and not just the DTI should also work to remove legal and political barriers to implementation (p 237).

4.179 ASLIB said that content was the essential element of the superhighway which had "not been given the priority that it should have, not only by the United Kingdom Government but by the European Union as well". It contrasted the role of the National Information Infrastructure Task Force of the United States Government, which had put as a priority the electronic delivery of "information needed in our everyday lives, in our work and in the way we conduct our lives, and in our relationship with government" (QQ 126-127). ASLIB linked the relative paucity of United Kingdom content to the Government's failure to promote seed corn investment for entrepreneurs in this field, and called on the Government to underwrite such investment to encourage venture capital organisations and banks to invest in this important new area.;[12] They also considered that most of the initiatives taken by the United Kingdom Government had emphasised technology rather than content. The United Kingdom needed a body to represent all government departments and sectors of interest (QQ 139-140).

4.180 The Technology Foresight ITEC Panel wanted government action in this area "to be as lightweight, minimal and skeletal as possible. It needs to pick on just the things that it needs to prescribe and leave the rest to be negotiated" (Q 673). It described four main areas of focus for UK government action. First, the UK should be taking a leading role in the international adoption of high grade encryption standards and frameworks--"that is the critical next step if we are going to be at the leading edge of exploiting this technology that is going to happen." Second, the UK should take a leading role in developing the legal copyright and intellectual property frameworks necessary for doing "info business" across the Internet. Third, there should be a regulatory framework in place to ensure "low cost, higher band width pervasive access to this network". Fourth, government agencies, bodies and policies needed to reflect the convergence of the telecommunications industry with other industries. "The government needs to make sure that the right cross-couplings are in place inside itself so that it can be more enlightened in the way that it behaves externally. If we insist on talking about things in separate, watertight compartments, we will not really get to the heart of some of the new issues" (QQ 678-681). Finally, it called on the Government to pay more attention to the UK's representation in international fora, and to host one or two major international gatherings (Q 685).

4.181 The DTI said that its Communications and Information Industries Division was trying to meet three themes of the Government's policy. "First of all we are aiming to be involved in the development of markets in this area, in the whole communications area, both here and overseas. We are looking at what the Government can sensibly and properly do to encourage the actual contents side of the market in terms of the infrastructure and what goes onto the infrastructure. The third area is our relationships with the industries which supply the market. There again, we need to think very carefully about, and our activities are focused upon, what role we can usefully play in adding to the efforts of companies in these sections" (Q 2).

Research funding

4.182 M Verrue of the European Commission said that better targeting of research funds for the development of new applications of information technology "could be used for bringing the kind of initial support to the content industry which would be helpful without necessarily clashing with EU discipline on state aids" (Q 651). The Telematics programme is one of several EU R&D programmes in this sector. This programme provides finance for demonstration purposes of new applications of existing technologies with "an immediate societal value", including assistance to handicapped people or elderly people, management of health care centres, navigation assistance and education and multi-media products (Q 653).

Government Information

4.183 CCTA, the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency, provides the CCTA Government Information Service (CGIS).;[13] This is an on-line service giving access to selected government information via the Internet. The service provides information from 120 public sector bodies and 60 government departments and agencies. The information provided includes ministerial speeches, press notices and statistical data as well as more general information about the various organisations' services. Since its inception in November 1994 the CGIS service has been accessed over six million times, about 200,000 times per week with 60 per cent of these accesses from Europe and the United Kingdom. A key objective of the service is to provide users with a single on-line point of entry to public sector information using simple search techniques. The service has won several accolades, including Computing Magazine's Internet Users of the Year Award 1995, and was judged one of the top 5 per cent Internet sites by Point Communications Corporation of the USA (p 175).

4.184 NACAB believed that government should have a duty to present its information in a form which could be interrogated by themselves and their clients. Key information which should be provided by government would be "basic statutes", case law from courts and tribunals, benefit levels and eligibility criteria. Although they agreed with the Committee that there was a case for users of Social Security information with common interests getting together with the Department of Social Security to see if its information could be provided in a form which was accessible and useful to all user groups, they were doubtful whether such an exercise would be successful (QQ 630-634). They warned, however, that if other departments followed the example of the Contributions Agency and made their information available on a touch screen terminal;[14] there was a danger that unless a consistent and coherent approach was adopted throughout government "we could end up with half a dozen different computers each containing information from different government departments within the waiting room" (Q 628). The Citizens' Advice Bureaux themselves are part of a federal structure, which means, for example, that a change in IT policy such as setting up a national Citizens' Advice Bureaux computer network would involve working with bureaux "much more through persuading and influencing rather than giving instructions about the way things are done" (Q 618).

4.185 ASLIB said that the biggest web site in the United States was the Inland Revenue Service, which was serving both the citizen and the government in terms of information, cost reduction and efficiencies. They were concerned that 85 per cent of information on the Internet was American information, which meant that "as the world goes to the Internet to find out sources for trade, licences, partnerships and information making them more competitive, they will see an array of United States information, an array of United States companies, United States-controlled databases, etc. That is why it is important to Britain" (Q 131). Another difference between the United States and the United Kingdom was that in the United States there was no copyright in government-created information, and a vast amount of government information was available on the Internet free of charge and the information industry was encouraged to copy the information and add value to it (QQ 172-3).

4.186 The Royal Academy of Engineering pointed out that it was in the interest of government to promote the use of electronic information channels to the public as it could thereby avoid "the selective message that is presented by the media" (p 276). The Scottish Office referred to the fact that the Internet provided "the opportunity to receive direct feedback electronically from members of the public who use the service" (p 287).

Crown copyright

4.187 Mr Stephen Saxby, senior lecturer in Information Technology Law at the University of Southampton considered that the Government had "some way to go before it completes ... necessary liberalisation of the market in official information. I recognise progress in establishing sympathetic licensing regimes, which are now extending towards electronic publishing. However, it is in the very licensing process itself that the log jam exists ... the abolition of Crown copyright would lead to a tremendous increase in the availability of official information and in the quality of the added value that organisations might contribute to official data when making it available to users ... government has a duty to ensure that a core of official information in its primary form, is made available to the public either free of charge or at cost. This will of course include the law of the land, including statutory instruments as well as a range of quasi-legislative material" (p 286).

4.188 The General Council of the Bar also considered that there was "a strong case for removing at least statutes and other legislation from the scope of Crown copyright protection. Similar observations apply to other Government information, in particular the Inland Revenue Manuals and the Patent Office Work Manuals, which explain how Government departments interpret and apply the law." The General Council of the Bar emphasised that the legal position in the United Kingdom in continuing Crown copyright protection in the law of the land was out of line with "most if not all of the other EU/EEA/EFTA states", and suggested that the restrictions exercisable by virtue of Crown copyright might fall foul of the competition provisions of the Treaty of Rome (pp 596-597).

4.189 Reuters pointed out that the Government was the largest "content provider" in the United Kingdom. New technology had the potential to transform the way in which official information reached the public. It was vital that government policy encouraged this process. Reuters said that "whereas in other countries, and in particular the US, governments have grasped the formidable political and economic implications for public sector data offered by the information superhighway, the UK information sector is handicapped by a Crown Copyright licensing regime which is based on the relatively trivial financial benefit to the Exchequer. For example, the most recent profit target set by the Treasury for HMSO was £11.9 million. Reuters is therefore seeking a change of policy in this important area, and to follow the US example. We believe that the economic, social and political consequences for the UK could be very large." (pp 271-274)

Electronic archives

4.190 The British Library said that "the information superhighway offers us enormous possibilities to extend our ability to provide information speedily and effectively ... The extent of our present ability to do that lies very significantly in the fact that the Library has enjoyed over a long period the privilege of legal deposit of printed publications. We believe that if we are to continue to fulfil our responsibilities in the future, it is now essential that legislation be enacted to extend the principle of legal deposit to non-print materials" (Q 193). They added "whilst we are collecting ... printed material for future generations, because legal deposit does not extend to electronic publications, we are not collecting that material, which will therefore probably be unavailable to future generations" (Q 196).

4.191 The University of Oxford was particularly concerned about the future role of copyright deposit libraries, of which the Bodleian is one. Issues of special interest included arrangements for the deposit of material in new media, and for the archiving and preservation of material published solely electronically. The University thought it probable that the higher education sector would have an important role to play in relation to the preservation of [electronic] material (p 303).

4.192 The Institute of Physics (IoP) said that there were no clear lines of responsibility as to who should hold the electronic archive. The IoP was committed to retaining an electronic archive for its own publications, but there was no guarantee that all publishers would act in that way. It was interested in the possible extension of the legal deposit legislation to embrace electronic publications, but warned that physics was an international activity and deposit libraries and institutions in other territories might not take a similar stance to that of the British Library (QQ 710-713).

Electronic evidence

4.193 The IDPM said that the Government should move quickly on the issue of the admissibility of electronic evidence in court and also that there was "a major need to clarify the legal powers and responsibility for monitoring and tracking illegal transmissions ... which may travel across a wide range of networks and jurisdictions from originator to receiver" (p 238).

Regulatory framework

4.194 Several witnesses;[15] called for a light touch to regulation and little direct Government intervention to encourage the growth of new utilities (eg pp 203, 230, 243). The Institute of Management Services (IMS) said that as the United Kingdom superhighway was likely to be a conceptual linking of a number of disparate networks, all that would be needed in some cases was a regulatory framework to foster interconnection (p 243). The ECN stated: "the Government role should only be to regulate for a fair, open, and competitive market place" (p 218). Telecential Communications said that the Government should not regulate specific technologies (p 295).

4.195 Microsoft emphasised that they did not wish government to control the Information Highway, but they saw "a role for regulation and framework to help foster the market forces at work" (Q 368). Given the fast pace of development of the Information Superhighway, they stressed the need for the government to think about the future, rather than thinking "about the business as if it were yesterday" (Q 397).

4.196 BT's main requirement of Government was an open playing field which allowed them to attack the emerging markets without "unnecessary constraints". They defined these as "regulatory constraints that prevent us from using certain technologies in certain areas, and which constrain us from developing new services by guidelines which were maybe sensible when they were introduced but no longer have much meaning in a very fluid and changing new environment. The IT environment is one that is changing almost on a daily basis. It is very difficult to take rules of ten years ago and apply them today sensibly. We are looking for some removal of these unnecessary hurdles" (Q 502).

4.197 BT drew attention to three regulatory constraints on their activities; the ban on BT broadcasting entertainment services, the price cap and the constraint on BT's use of radio technology (Q 505). BT was to be given radio licences for telephony provision "in a very great proportion of the country covering a very small proportion of the population". These would be useful in reducing the cost of providing a universal telephony service in the areas concerned but would "not be of great use in providing the sort of broadband digital services that we are talking about in connection with the information society." (QQ 513-514)

4.198 The Communication Workers Union (CWU) and the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) were among those who supported BT's call for an end to the current asymmetry in broadcasting regulations. The CWU described BT as "the only organisation able and willing to create a genuinely national and genuinely broadband network for Britain", and said that "specifically, the ban on BT carrying entertainment services on its telecommunications network should be lifted" (p 189). The DMA called for at least a level playing field to be established for BT and others so that "United Kingdom plc." could benefit from the 1998 liberalisation in the European telecommunications markets (p 201). Mr John Harper considered the problems and business prospects of the cable companies and the regulations placed on BT to protect its competitors, and concluded that: "The situation amounts to a serious drag on progress with highways in this country" (p 227). Further deregulation was called for by the Library and Information Commission (p 251).

4.199 The Royal Academy of Engineering said that a number of its Fellows were "of the opinion that the Government's constraints on British Telecom have impeded the interests of UK firms regarding worldwide manufacturing of "Information Superhighway" infrastructure. There is little incentive for cable companies to provide an "Information Superhighway" since there is not competitive pressure for them to do so. It is unlikely that they will risk serious investment on digitalising their cable infrastructure in advance of market pressure without regulatory requirements" (p 279).

4.200 Dr Rudge of BT emphasised that domestic regulatory hurdles had particular significance given the globally competitive nature of the markets in which BT operates. "Some of those no entry signs definitely slow you down if they do not stop you entirely ... and the trouble is we are in an international competition and slowing us down is tantamount to death really, you cannot be slow in this game. When I ... talk to some of our suppliers ... and I say: "The rules in the United Kingdom are that BT is going to be kept out of this area to see if a couple of little companies can get off the ground in the next five years", they look at me with astonishment. That is in effect what you get [as a result of the present regulatory regime in the UK]--the big player slowed down to allow one or two small companies to see if they can make it" (Q 511).

4.201 BT emphasised the importance of the Government's role in enabling national competitiveness in European and global markets. "We are going through a liberalisation transition ... not only in Europe but generally around the world. During this period we must have regulation and there is a need to strike a balance between local competition, to make sure that there is local competition ... and national competitiveness in that we are competing against big players from other countries who are just as determined to establish themselves in these markets. Keeping an eye on that balance is not something for the regulator because he has a national remit, it is something for ... the DTI or Government to ensure that the balance is a sensible one" (Q 508).;[16]

4.202 The British Computer Society (BCS) on behalf of the Engineering Council called for government action to ensure the deregulation of the IT and telecommunications service industries world wide and to promote the concept of international standards (pp 168-9). The Federal Trust also supported a programme of accelerated liberalisation in the EU (p 222). At the EU level, the Federal Trust proposed a committee of national regulators "to promote best practice between member state governments and to tender advice to EU and national competition and regulatory authorities" (p 222).

Regulatory convergence

4.203 Full exploitation of the broadband superhighway would probably require the involvement of over a dozen regulatory bodies in the United Kingdom. According to the National Consumer Council, "at least 10 different agencies have regulatory responsibilities for different aspects of telecommunications and broadcasting. With technological and industrial convergence, existing regulatory structures can result in confusing and contradictory decisions, as well as gaps in regulatory responsibility to deal with emerging problems.";[17] This issue was touched on in the House of Commons Trade and Industry Committee Report on Optical Fibre Networks. The Report recommended that the Government review both the structure of broadcasting and telecommunications regulation and the powers of the regulators. Possible solutions would include establishing one body with overall responsibility, or two separate bodies to cover network regulation and content, or to bring each of the existing regulators into a framework of common purpose.

4.204 In 1994 the Government said that it was "mindful that the growing convergence of telecommunications, broadcasting and information services may ultimately require a similar convergence in the regulatory structure. It would however be premature at present to promote change in the regulatory structures, in the absence of much more concrete information about how convergence will occur.";[18] In the mean time, the Government has continued to legislate separately for the rapidly converging industries concerned, including the Broadcasting Bill introduced in the present parliamentary session.

4.205 In the light of the convergence of various technologies through digitisation, a number of witnesses, including CWU and ESRC, called for a parallel convergence of regulation under one authority (pp 189, 213). The Department of National Heritage (DNH) said that there was no clear-cut boundary between telecommunications and broadcasting, and it was possible that the licensing responsibilities discharged by the Independent Television Commission (ITC) under the Broadcasting Act 1990 might, in some circumstances, cover content carried on the superhighways, particularly where it included moving images. It was questionable whether ITC licensing would be regarded as an appropriate solution to any problem perceived to attach to the content of superhighway services, and the legislative position would need to be reviewed as services developed and the regulatory needs and responses became clearer (p 591).

4.206 Responses to OFTEL's own consultation exercise indicated that "there was widespread support for a fundamental review of the regulatory regimes covering communications" (p 547). Mr Cruickshank, the Director General of OFTEL, commented on the calls for a single regulator. "The first thing to say is that the DTI, DNH, the ITC and ourselves find that we can work with little difficulty effectively right now. A number of the concerns which I read in the media about that as an issue are, for the moment, not real ones. We can work in a complementary fashion and deal with the issues. Secondly, however, that is clearly under some stress as the technology changes and we move towards a digital world in which the distinction between digital video, telecoms and enhanced services, Internet or whatever, is not there". Mr Cruickshank thought that "at some point in the next Parliament there will be a need for a Communications Act as distinct from a Telecoms Act or a Broadcasting Bill and the important thing would be for the then Government to properly identify what the relevant market for regulation is, what the right framework of rules should be and only then to go to the issue of what is the right regulatory structure" (Q 1033).

4.207 M Verrue of the European Commission said that by the end of 1996 the Commission would produce a Communication on the long-term implications of convergence and the case for consequential regulatory reform. Discussion on this document should take place with Member States and national regulators in 1997, with a view to the Commission's proposing legislative changes in 1998. The Commission's first priority in this field was, however, the deregulation of the telecommunications sector. Whilst Canada, France and Germany had, in common with the DTI and OFTEL, reflected on the legal consequences of technological convergence no country had taken the legislative initiative in this area (QQ 646-647).


4.208 The Lord Privy Seal said that "Government is giving considerable thought to the implications of all these new technologies and the information superhighway, how it will affect the future of our country ... I think perhaps ... we can all agree on our objectives. We want a thriving information technology and multimedia industry in this country. We want all our industries to be in a position to seize the opportunities which the new technology offers and to make it work for them. We want every individual to have the opportunity to explore and, of course, to take advantage of them. We think that this emphatically is not a task for the Government alone. On the other hand, the Government does have a very important role" (Q 1054).

4.209 The British Library emphasised the importance of "raising awareness within government, within industry and within education of the potential of the superhighway and the need for all of us to work together to ensure that we can exploit it for Britain ... we should have every optimism that Britain can come out of this very well, simply because we have a superb publishing industry, we have very strong media companies, we have probably one of the best library and information networks in the world and we have the English language ... we have everything to play for, but we have to find ways of getting all parts of the community thinking about how it is going to affect their particular interests and lives" (Q 244).

4.210 The DNH said that "this is a time of great opportunity, helped by the fact that English is increasingly the language of international communication, but there are also dangers of being left behind. For example, the UK starts with many advantages in the field of educational materials, but may be losing the initiative to the United States" (p 588).

4.211 Andrew Graham said that "the Information Highway is at a particularly critical point in its development. As a result there is much that could be done now that will not be possible later. Moreover ... what is required can be done relatively easily and without great cost". He emphasised that there was "enormous potential in this area for the UK both to enhance democracy and to expand the role of UK institutions ... British universities, libraries, publishers and broadcasters continue to be respected throughout the world. Moreover, English is now the world language. Added to this, the UK has a vibrant media and software industry. The Information Superhighway is a global phenomenon. It would be insane if British institutions were to miss a major opportunity by failing to provide the public information that the information society so obviously requires" (pp 598, 602).

4.212 Oracle also stressed the need for the UK to be a front runner in building the Information Society. "Central government must take an active role in making sure that the UK business community is aware of (and prepared for) the Information Superhighway. The commercial development of the Internet and WWW as a global channel for conducting business has reached a point where it is vital that UK businesses are in at an early stage in order to take competitive advantage of the opportunities offered. If they don't, then they face competition from other countries who do adopt the WWW as a new business channel, and risk losing market share in a global market place" (p 618).

4.213 The Technology Foresight ITEC Panel urged the UK to take early action in joining the Information Society: "the UK should be just getting on and doing ... rather than waiting for others to do it ... we could be a leader rather than a follower" (Q 678). It called on the UK to develop a specialisation and leadership role in a few key areas of the new technologies (Q 687), and concluded: "this technology is profoundly important ... Sixty years ago people might have said the phone was not terribly important because people would spend most of their time chattering on it, chattering is very important in society. Many other kinds of uses of this technology are very important in society. We think it is going to be quite disruptive, quite profound and we ought to be master of it and a leader in its exploitation not a rather unwilling laggard who just has it done to us" (Q 690). In other words, we need an agenda for action.

1. Readers of the Internet version of The Times, which is currently available free of charge ( can already specify their personal interests. Back

2. Library Association/Joint Consultative Committee Statement on Copyright and the Digital Environment (October 1995), p 4. Back

3. A similar point was made by the Technology Foresight ITEC Panel (Q 679). Back

4. Appendix 8, paragraph 8. Back

5. See Appendix 8. Back

6. DTI Press Release, 21 March 1996 ( Back

7. In the House of Lords, the majority of such communications are conducted via the Overseas Office, which will gain access to the Internet in summer 1997 as part of the on-going programme of cabling Parliament. Back

8. IPU Report of the Consultative Committee of Experts, p 3. Back

9. Back

10. By 28 March 1996. Back

11. The need for a uniform approach to Government policy in relation to the information superhighways was also emphasised by the Library and Information Commission (p 250) and the Direct Marketing Association (p 203). Back

12. Janice Hughes of Spectrum Strategy Consultants also emphasised the importance of the availability of venture capital for the new information superhighway industry in the United States (QQ 313-4). Back

13. Back

14. This was a pilot project for testing in a single bureau (Q 627). Back

15. To avoid unnecessary repetition some evidence on this subject is discussed, together with the Committee's opinion on it, in the following Chapter. Back

16. Mercury Communications thought that there was an increasing divergence between the EU's and OFTEL's proposals (QQ 864-5). Back

17. National Consumer Council, The Information Society: Getting it right for consumers (London, April 1996), 10. Back

18. Cm 2734, Creating the Superhighways of the Future: Developing Broadband Communications in the UK (November 1994), 31.Back


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