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To sum up my point, why have we invested, and continue to invest, in Galileo as a second celestial system when e-Loran is much simpler, cheaper and does not have the same vulnerabilities? I hope that the Minister can tell us how he proposes to meet the challenges I have identified.

Lord Howard of Rising: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for raising these important points. I hope the Minister will be able to confirm that the concerns raised by my noble friend in Amendment 23 are covered under new Section 134B(1)(h), which states that Ofcom's reports under this section of the Bill must include,

It seems sensible that matters such as the resilience of networks to physical damage and loss of power are considered under this section, and that emergency situations should include the ability of the state to communicate with its citizens. If these issues are not dealt with under this section, I would urge the Minister to listen to my noble friend and ensure that they indeed are properly taken care of.

On Amendment 26, I feel that the most important issue is whether, when counting an exceptional load on a network as an emergency, Ofcom would be able to differentiate between busy periods, such as immediately after a football match or at rush hour, and other more significant emergencies, such as a terrorist attack. Both, arguably, could account for an exceptional load. Can the Minister clarify whether such a differentiation would be possible?

On Amendment 30, I thank my noble friend Lord Attlee for giving such an erudite explanation of the GPS and other systems. I would simply-I am not sure that that is the right word to use after listening to my noble friend-ask the Minister whether the Government believe that Ofcom has the necessary expertise to carry out this important task, or whether another body or combination of bodies, or perhaps even the Government themselves, should compile such a report.

Lord Young of Norwood Green: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, for drawing our attention, as usual, to some key issues.

I believe that the first amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, is an attempt to clarify what is meant by resilience in terms of communication infrastructures, and what the principal objective of maintaining resilience should be. I understand his intention in proposing that such detail be drafted into the clause, but in my view this will narrow its meaning and limit its applicability and therefore its value.

We set out the requirement to report on resilience issues in new Section 134B(1)(h) and (2)(f). New subsection (3) goes on to specify important elements of the preparedness that we are looking for. The effect of the first part of the amendment would be to narrow

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the field of risk on which Ofcom would be required to report. Physical damage to networks, as we saw in Cumbria last year, has a significant impact, and the impact of a loss of power is well understood. However, the effect of this amendment would be to rule out or demote the risk to resilience posed by other important issues, such as industrial action, staff shortages through pandemic flu, or cyber or other types of attack.

The second part of the amendment attempts to define the point of resilience. In new Section 134B(1)(h) we require Ofcom to report on the preparedness for an emergency and the ability to respond to and recover from one. I well understand the point that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, was making in relation to the terrorist attack of 7/7 when he said that mobile phones were cut off. I am not sure whether they were cut off, or it was just that the load on the network meant that it could not cope with the volume of calls. In relation to that, the noble Lord, Lord Howard, asked whether you could differentiate between the two. Although my knowledge is not as extensive or up to date as it should be in view of my telecom background, I doubt that you could. I shall write to him on that because obviously it is an important point.

In planning any network there is a limit to what you can do economically. Costs would spiral out of proportion if you tried to meet the maximum load that could occur in any eventuality. That would mean that, for much of the time, a lot of equipment would be doing nothing. The point I am trying to make is that there is a balance to be struck.

3.30 pm

The second part of the amendment attempts to define the point of resilience. We require Ofcom to report on the preparedness for an emergency and the ability to respond to and recover from one. Requiring Ofcom to comment on citizens' ability to communicate with each other during an emergency would therefore not add anything of significance to the existing text. We accept the principle of what is being said about the importance of a resilient network and its ability to recover but we do not think that this is the right wording. In any event, I can assure the noble Lord that the issue is covered in the current wording.

As for communication with the authorities, there is already an obligation on companies which provide links to the 999 service to prioritise those services above all others. Ofcom is already involved in these arrangements through its implementation of the universal service obligation which is laid down by European law. We see no need to include a report on such arrangements in the requirements which we seek to impose as the companies already have that duty.

As for the broader question of how authorities communicate with citizens during an emergency through techniques such as cell broadcasting, the policy is still under consideration and any legislation that is required to achieve better communication would need to be considered separately. It would therefore not be appropriate to require Ofcom to report on such developments. However, this important issue is being considered, and I am prepared to give further details on it if necessary.



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I thank the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, for his erudite explanation of Amendment 30. I learned quite a bit about GPS from his contribution. I am sorry, I have skipped ahead. I want to deal first with Amendment 26.

Amendment 26 seeks to expand the definition of "emergency" in relation to the requirement on Ofcom to report on network and service matters. I am sympathetic to the intention of the amendment in so far as the possibility of networks failing through being overloaded has to be taken seriously, but the term "disruption" already includes the possibility of exceptional loads being placed on networks and thereby causing disruption. I understand that the objective of most attacks on online services now is to swamp the underlying technology and thereby cause it to stop working. This is called a denial-of-service attack. This risk is now so well known that it serves no purpose to add it into the definition of emergency. Disruption as a concept must be understood to include the stress on networks arising from overloading and it would be unhelpful to give such emphasis to one of many ways in which networks can be disrupted. We understand the importance of what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, is saying but we believe that the issue is better addressed in the legislation currently proposed.

I turn to Amendment 30. The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, is right to draw our attention to the increasing use and importance of satellite navigation systems to support a wide range of important activities in providing both accurate positioning and precise timing. I cannot give the noble Earl the assurance he seeks that either the GPS or the forthcoming Galileo system cannot be jammed. The same is true for all other GNSS services provided by the Russians and the Chinese, among others. Unlike GPS, which was built for the US military, Galileo will be a civilian enterprise. Apart from the free service which will be available to all, and which will be complementary to the GPS service, there will be four other signals for commercial and public use. One of these will be encrypted and will provide protection from spoofing signals that can be the basis of a denial-of-service attack.

These channels will be used in many applications, including those that are safety critical. The protection of the critical national infrastructure is a key aspect of our national security policy. The Government have tasked the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure to engage with the management of such infrastructure to improve its security and resilience. This activity is not defined in statute and it would be wrong for the discretion of the authorities to define what is critical to be unduly fettered in that way. Nevertheless, I can assure the noble Earl that the use of global navigation systems in the critical infrastructure is a matter of interest to CPNI and the relevant government departments. CPNI working with industry is the right way to manage any risk in this area.

I note that the noble Earl believes that a combination of GPS and the Loran land-based system would give us diversity and resilience. It is now a matter of public knowledge that the US authorities intend to remove funding from a large part of the Loran network that they support. The implications of such a decision for the future of the Loran network or future enhancements have yet to be assessed. We should not rely solely on

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the Loran system to provide diversity. The Galileo system is on track. The Government believe that it will provide value for money and diversity of supply and will benefit those who increasingly use location and timing services. Against that background, I believe that it is unhelpful to give Ofcom a separate and narrowly focused duty to report on a service that does not fall within its existing remit.

In the light of the points I have made, I hope that the noble Lord and the noble Earl will consider not pressing this group of amendments.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, I am grateful for the Minister's response, but I have a couple of supplementary questions that I am sure he will enjoy answering. First, he mentioned spoofing. I understand his points and I am confident that he is absolutely right on that. I am not sure that I got the correct term. My concern is the GPS signal being smothered so that there is no signal at all-so the GPS and timing systems will not work. Secondly, I also asked about Galileo. I asked what Galileo can do that GPS cannot, especially when it is in combination with e-Loran. That is the key question. What can Galileo do? What does it give us that we did not have with GPS?

Lord Young of Norwood Green: GPS jamming incidents are monitored by the US Coast Guard and dealt with on a case-by-case basis. I have no information on the security of the Russian system, GLONASS, or the Chinese Compass system. Galileo is not yet built, but there will be a Galileo security monitoring centre. The European Commission is considering a number of possibilities, including a signal monitoring facility. A series of procedures will be put in place by the European Council to take effect should the system itself be attacked. The security monitoring centre will be responsible for implementing these.

What can Galileo give us? It can give us some diversity of supply and extra resilience, a competitive network and a wholly dedicated civilian network. This is perhaps not the right time to do a detailed comparative analysis, but if there is further information that I can supply, I shall be happy to write additionally to the noble Earl on a cost-benefit analysis of Galileo. As for the other points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, I have addressed those previously. In the light of the explanations and assurances given, I ask that the noble Lord and the noble Earl not press the amendments.

Earl Attlee: I am grateful for the Minister's response to my amendment and will not be pursuing it further today, but I will need to give him another chance to explain further the advantages of Galileo.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I shall take comfort from the replies that the Minister has given, and he can take comfort from the fact that, should what he has said prove to be wrong and Ofcom's report not cover the things that I care about, it may well be my noble friend Lord Howard of Rising who has to deal with my ire. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 23 withdrawn.



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Amendment 24

Moved by Lord Lucas

24: Clause 2, page 3, line 41, at end insert-

"( ) the services on offer over each platform, including details of wholesale arrangements and service competition,

( ) the impediments, barriers and constraints on citizens, consumers and businesses in accessing electronic communications services and information society services"

Lord Lucas: My Lords, Amendment 24 deals with the same part of the Bill and seeks to insert in there the consideration of competition and of the services provided to customers. It is important in looking at the structure, the companies and the services involved that we do not forget that we are dealing here with some pretty large commercial forces that naturally tend towards monopoly and towards preserving their own position, in a market that ought to be fast-changing and evolving. It ought to be part of Ofcom's job to ensure that competition is unfettered and that consumers are receiving the services that they ought to be. That seems to be central to the job that Ofcom should be doing. I beg to move.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I support the amendment. There are many admirable aspects to the Bill, but it focuses heavily on infrastructure issues and has perhaps insufficient emphasis on ensuring that consumers and citizens can access useful services over that infrastructure.

Having next-generation fibre or a suitable radio spectrum for mobile networks is of value, of course, but it is of little value unless it actually achieves affordable, accessible services for consumers and citizens. They do not care if infrastructure is near them, but they certainly care if they can access affordable services with as few limitations as possible. The amendment would be beneficial in ensuring transparency of those not-spots. There is a certain amount of disbelief that my own particular not-spot, whether for radio or for digital, will be readily disposed of once the digital switchover happens. After the Bill becomes law, there will continue to be a number of areas where we need to keep a check on what is happening. The amendment would certainly help to identify the places, consumers and citizens who had yet to gain the wide choice of affordable, competitive services. It would be helpful if the Government, in considering how to address this whole area when thinking about Report, might do so through reporting requirements.

Lord Howard of Rising: My Lords, we on these Benches agree that the two areas identified in the amendment are crucial to the success of the UK's digital economy. Access to, and competition in, services offered over communications networks are important elements in this sector, so it is disappointing that the Bill does not deal with those issues. Clause 2, though, is about Ofcom reports on infrastructure. The categories in new Section 134B are very focused on the pipes rather than the poetry. Does the Minister think it appropriate for services to be included in this section?

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If not, will he give the House some assurances that Ofcom or the Government will look at these areas at another time?

3.45 pm

Lord Young of Norwood Green: My Lords, the reports that we are asking Ofcom to compile under new Sections 134A and 134B of the Communications Act are intended to present a health check on the nation's communications infrastructure and services. As such, we have thought hard about the matters to be covered in the report and about what it needs to include to enable a good picture to emerge of the state of the nation's communications infrastructure and services. We have covered the ground thoroughly. Wholesale arrangements, for example, are covered in new subsection (1)(f). I am not sure exactly what is meant in this amendment by "service competition" but new subsection (2)(b) requires the report to cover the different types of services provided in the UK.

I turn to the issues around accessing digital services. The ability of all in society to engage with and benefit from digital services is of great importance. The Digital Britain report gave Ofcom a specific role, leading to the Digital Participation Consortium, which brings together the Government, the private sector and the third sector to work to reduce the barriers that people face in getting online. That addresses the concerns that the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, expressed. Barriers relating to infrastructure will already be covered by the report. A report on infrastructure is not the right place for other issues, such as skills, confidence or affordability, to be considered. We expect that the Digital Participation Consortium will shortly publish a national plan for digital participation. Issues around access to digital services will be more properly covered in reports on progress on the national plan.

If one looks at the digital, broadband or even the mobile market, one can hardly say that these are not highly competitive environments with a wide range of providers. I am not by any means preaching complacency, otherwise we would not have embarked on a Digital Britain report. We know that we still have work to do to ensure that we do not create what is described as the digital divide. I share and understand the concerns expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and the noble Baroness, Lady Howe. We believe that we have the balance right in the current legislation. We also referred the Committee to the Digital Participation Consortium, which will shortly publish a national plan, as I have said.

While I do not in any way disagree with the noble Lord about the importance of these issues, I do not agree that they should be a part of the infrastructure report. Therefore, in the light of the reassurance and explanation that I have given, I invite him to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, before my noble friend withdraws his amendment or comes back to comment on it, can the Minister tell us a little more about the national plan? When will it come into being? Will it come into being after this Bill passes? Will we get a chance to look at it in the light of the recommendations? What is the review situation?



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I apologise to the Committee for not being able to be here last week. A family funeral kept me away. I continue to be concerned about rural access to digital opportunities, which I have raised in this House on many occasions, and which I suspect the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, covered earlier in his amendments. My noble friend Lord Lucas's amendment gives me a chance to raise this again. I would have raised it last week but I could not be here. Surely it would be beneficial if we had some response to, or wider knowledge of, how the national plan would apply to the Bill.

Lord Young of Norwood Green: I thank the noble Baroness for her contribution. We share her concern about rural access. The aim of the Digital Britain report is to ensure that we have a universal service offered on broadband. I have not got with me information on when the national plan will be published, unfortunately. Ah! I have some inspiration from the Box. Ofcom and the consortium are working on this and they hope to publish this spring. Of course it will be made available, and I agree that we should have an opportunity to discuss the content. Obviously it will make a valuable contribution to the points that have been made by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Byford and Lady Howe.

Lord Wade of Chorlton: The Minister mentioned the national plan. I remind your Lordships that in 2002 we launched an inquiry, which I chaired for the Select Committee on Science and Technology, into the microprocessing industry. We produced a report called Chips for Everything, in which we looked very closely at the impact that producing a smaller and smaller microchip would have on future technology and on the development of all the things that we are talking about now.

As part of that process, we also looked very closely at what was happening in California-that part of America in which these things were developing at such a rate. Our report identified and very much emphasised that no one knows the impact of producing smaller and smaller microchips. We could not foresee the things that have happened in the past five years, and we have no idea what will happen in the next five years. The people who will make full use of this opportunity will be the technicians, and there will be demand from the public. For God's sake, let us not produce a national plan that restricts the development of the wonderful opportunities that will still come from these ever-growing technologies.

Lord Young of Norwood Green: I thank the noble Lord for reminding us of what I think is referred to as Moore's law, by which the number of transistors on a chip is expected to double every 18 months. I think Moore predicted that some time in the mid-1970s, and it has been proved to be true. The noble Lord is right to remind us that it is difficult to predict the effect. We have gained some experience over the past decade or so from the huge expansion of services and facilities, but his point is valid.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I am less content with the Minister's response on this. It is as though we are setting out to produce a report on Britain's road network without considering the traffic or the people

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who use the roads. The new section does not mention sources of demand or whether the customers are satisfied with the infrastructure. The Minister talked about the mobile network communication system being competitive. Yes, but the competition is restricted; only a limited number of companies are allowed to compete, and new companies will find it extremely difficult to come in under the arrangements which the Government are proposing. In those circumstances, it is sensible to ensure that Ofcom, in considering the infrastructure, looks at the use to which it is being put. However, I see that I am not getting support from my own Front Bench on this, so I had better leave the matter there. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 24 withdrawn.

Amendments 25 to 27 not moved.

Amendment 27A (in substitution for Amendment 27)

Moved by The Earl of Erroll

27A: Clause 2, page 4, leave out lines 25 to 32

The Earl of Erroll: First, I declare not a financial interest but an interest as a member of Nominet UK's policy advisory body for several years, so I am fairly well acquainted with some of the affairs of that company, which runs the .uk domain space on which we rely. In principle, I see exactly why the Government would like to have reserve powers over Nominet. Nominet was originally owned by the people who got people to sign up for domain names, so perhaps the current governance structure is not the most suitable one for something that is really a .uk plc asset and we need extra powers and/or to reorganise the governance of the company. Moves are being made in that direction at the moment.


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