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EU Sub-Committee takes evidence on roaming charges

September 9, 2015

Technology 300

The Hon Ed Vaizey MP, Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy, Michael Lillis, Private Secretary to Ed Vaizey, and Rick Holyomes, Department for Culture, Media and Sport appeared as witnesses before the Select Committee on European Union Internal Market Inquiry on Roaming Charges on September 7th 2015.

Lord Wei asked about the fairness of disruptive communication services such as Skype and WhatsApp which use telecoms infrastructure but do not contribute towards the maintenance of the infrastructure.

Ed Vaizey responded that they have looked at these issues in detail. A lot of these over-the-top providers make their own investments in their own infrastructure in order to provide a service for their consumers and by providing a service that we all want to use and which we all need a smartphone and a mobile package in order to use, they are effectively helping to provide customers for the mobile operators.

Lord Wei also asked about the emergence of algorithms and artificial intelligence built into telecoms services but not with transparency and the danger that certain consumers or businesses lose out or are impacted as a result of the decisions that these algorithms make.

Ed Vaizey said the UK Government is very open to meeting and hearing from people in these industries to find out more about this issue.

Lord Wei then raised the issue of the impact of disruptive technology not only on the technological industry but on traditional industries such as cab driving. Many, many people will be affected by this and whether Europe and the UK Government had a view on how this transition should be managed.

Ed Vaizey responded that the UK have a range of initiatives in that area from degree apprenticeships through to the Digital Business Academy pioneered by Tech City, to try to upgrade as much as possible not just the digital capabilities of people coming into the economy, but those who are already established who need to upgrade their skills. He stressed that this is a very important agenda for the Government as well as the USA and member states in the European Union.

Lord Wei then pressed about anticipating the necessary retraining as certain manual jobs disappear.

Ed Vaizey reported that the Government have a number of interventions already driven by BIS as Catapults. The Chancellor also announced in the Budget a sum of money to test bed the internet of things. It shows that the Government is trying to anticipate the issues by not simply allowing technology to evolve and arrive. The UK was also the first G20 country to introduce coding into the curriculum. He felt it important that the Government continue to look at these issues in detail to keep driving further policy innovation.

Full transcript* is here.

* This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and webcast on www.parliamentlive.tv. Neither Members nor witnesses have had the opportunity to correct the record.

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