UK bill may ban public Wi-Fi

According to ZDNet UK, the British could be slapped with a major annoyance. The Digital Economy Bill, which is aimed to stop copyright infringement, may pose serious problems for small businesses, universities, and libraries. As per the bill, it would become illegal for a company to offer free, open, access to the web. This would mean that coffee shops may no longer be able offer users the ability to surf and sip, turning away many potential customers.

The problem with allowing anyone onto an open network is figuring out who takes the blame for illegal downloading. The bill would put the owner of the Internet connection at fault. In order for a small business to allow access under the new bill, they would have to do more than just password protect their routers. Essentially, to allow others to use a public connection, a company must become an ISP, keeping records of everyone they assign connections to. This is unfeasible for small businesses. Without such a system in place, large fines could be handed out. 

The article notes various reasons why libraries and universities can't be exempt from such restrictions. It all boils down to whether or not an establishment qualifies as an ISP or a subscriber. Subscribers aren't held accountable at the same level as ISPs. Large hotels would probably fall under the ISP category, while many coffee shops and other low-bandwidth businesses may be subscribers. It's still unknown where universities fit into all of this. Details of the bill are still being ironed out, but one thing's for sure, no one's going to like it.

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