UK - China Internet Forum

Ladies and Gentlemen, good morning, it is a great pleasure for me to be here today and to speak about our role as key players in shaping the…

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
Ed Vaizey

Ladies and Gentlemen, good morning, it is a great pleasure for me to be here today and to speak about our role as key players in shaping the policy and regulatory frameworks necessary to both exploit and cope with the digital revolution.

I have just come from the UN Internet Governance Forum (IGF) which is currently being held in Nairobi, Kenya; what a success for Africa.

But, in the context of the Internet what really struck me was that all those present, be they Government, Business or representatives from civil society were all discussing how to ensure that the Internet remains at the forefront of innovative services and the engine of creating both economic and social wealth for our future generations.

In the speech that  Neelie Kroes from the European Commission gave at the OECD High Level Meeting on the Internet Economy in June this year, she reflected on the six essential elements to ensure a fully functioning Internet. They being: 

  • To “Keep one Internet”’ and not allow it to fragment, due to external pressures, be they regulatory, political or economic;
  • Ensure that the Internet is a safe place for citizens to communicate and do business from;
  • That the  Internet’s architecture needs to evolve constantly to meet new and unforeseen challenges;
  • That there are clear issues like legal liability to ensure that citizens behaviour is governed by civic norms;
  • That Internet-based tools can foster democratic life and wellbeing; and
  • To ensure that the Internet remains multistakeholder and transparent.

In short Neelie went on to name these six Internet elements as a “Compact for the Internet”: an Internet of Civic responsibility, One Internet, that is Multistakeholder, Pro-democracy, Architecturally sound, Confidence inspiring, and Transparently governed.

Internet Governance

To me, this so called ‘Compact of the Internet’ has some compelling features within it. Firstly, that the Internet is, and must be in the future  built on a bottom-up, multi-stakeholder process; one that allows for the free flow of ideas and a forum to discuss how to address both technical and policy issues that all stakeholders face in the fast evolutionary environment which the Internet is today. We believe that the IGF is such a vehicle and thus are confident that the current review by the UN 
CSTD Committee will endorse its pivotal role and current structure at the WSIS Review in 2015.

Safe Internet and Civic Responsibility

Now let me say a few words on civic responsibility on ensuring that the Internet remains a safe environment to socially interact and do business from.

The first rule of all governments around the world is to keep its citizens safe. This rule includes when its citizen’s interact either socially or economically in cyberspace. When we encounter people in real life, we expect, quite legitimately, that their behaviour will be governed by civic norms and social duties. These same norms should also apply when people are in cyberspace. Where this is not the case, then the enforcement authorities with the Internet network community should look at how they can build on existing relationships and cooperation to prevent Internet networks being used in criminal behaviour.

London Cyber-Conference

The challenges cyberspace presents are global and require a global, co-ordinated response.  With this in mind the UK Foreign Secretary William Hague will host the London Conference on Cyberspace in November. This will provide an opportunity to launch a sustained and focussed dialogue on how Governments and others should behave in cyberspace in order to enhance security and confidence in the networked 
 world and support social and economic development. This dialogue needs to involve all those who have a stake in cyberspace, and who have helped create and develop it - including civil society and business. We hope this focused and open dialogue will lead to the broadest possible international consensus around basic principles that will guide the actions of Governments and others in cyberspace.

The UK does not claim that we have all the answers. There have already been bilateral exchanges between our officials on this which I am pleased will continue later today and I look forward to greater discussion in November among invited governments and representatives of the private sector, civil society and academia. 

The UK

Now, a few words if I may on what we are doing in the UK. We have set ourselves a target of having the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015. This is one of our key priorities, and it is my task to deliver it. Our Broadband Strategy document, launched last December, sets outs our plans for the future.

By 2015 we will ensure all households will have access to a 2Mbits/PS connection while at least 90% of households across the country will have access to superfast broadband,.

Government will contribute £530 Million in funding, some of it for specific pilot projects. But it is for the private sector to lead the way. BT and Virgin Media have already announced extensive network upgrades.

OFCOM, the communications regulator, is looking at access issues to ensure the development of a competitive market. We in central Government are examining how the legal framework impacts on the potential to use other utility infrastructure, such as that of the water companies. We will amend legislation if that is what is required to create a more flexible range of options.
And in parallel with that we want planning and street works to support superfast broadband roll-out, not hinder it. We aim to issue guidance to local authorities in this respect by the end of the year.

But the future, of course, is not just fixed lines, but also enhanced and faster mobile broadband (reflecting the ever increasing demand) and thus plans of OFCOM to auction spectrum at both 800MHz and 2,6Ghz year earmarked for 4G services


By way of conclusion, let me say that the UK places great value on its relationship with China in the electronic communications sector. Both the UK and China should continue to seek closer cooperation on the key issues which I have tried to highlight today.

We in the UK, see this Internet Forum along with our Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology as the main platforms for such exchanges which will enable us to cooperate on such issues now and in the future.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you.


Published 29 September 2011