A digital rights bill was passed by the UK Parliament last week, quickly rushed through in a wash-up process prior to next month’s election. The bill included a scheme to disconnect wireline broadband from those conducting piracy of copyright material. One concern raised by many objectors is that anyone offering free access to Wi-Fi might open themselves up to disconnection due to abuse by their customers or passers-by. Would this affect the interest and takeup of femtocells?
Just what is the UK Digital Rights Bill?
The Digital Rights Bill just passed has attracted enormous media coverage. A quick summary of what it’s about can be found on the BBC website. This is a more balanced view than elsewhere, where some commentators thinking that anyone could receive these warnings and be disconnected without any court being involved – those making the accusation don’t have the prove it, any appeal will cost money, and the disconnection could be for life. After the election, we can expect more scrunity of the Bill which takes effect over the next few months.
What this means for a Wi-Fi hotspot
For example, one specific comment from a NMA reader summarises the law as:
“If someone accesses your wireless or your connection without your knowledge or permission then you are responsible and can be cut off or have other technical measures taken with no right to defend yourself or burden of proof before action is taken.”
There are some other good comments for that article too.
I won’t debate the issue of sharing copyright material here – that’s not the point of this article.
Will Wi-Fi in public areas be withdrawn?
One outcome of this ruling, which matches similar laws in France and other countries, is that access to Free Wi-Fi in public areas may be withdrawn. Owners of business premises may be concerned that their internet access, which is also used for internal purposes (e.g. bookings, email , credit card authorisation etc) could be affected. This would not only be disappointing – it could affect the traffic currently offloaded from the outdoor mobile data network.
Which could mean a boost to femtocell deployment
Should this scenario occur, femtocells could be given an additional boost. Not only are they much easier to connect to, but the end user is identified by their SIM card and can be tracked even when accessing the network from different femtocells. This would allow authorities to match activity to specific users and disconnect those from the network, rather than the specific access point.