Communications Act 2003
The Communications Act 2003 (c 21) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It gave regulation body Ofcom its full powers. Among other measures, it introduced legal recognition of community radio and paved the way for full-time community radio services in the UK; as well as controversially lifting many restrictions on cross-media ownership. It also made it illegal to use other people's wifi broadband connections without their permission.
The Communications Act 2003 had as its purpose to confer functions on the Office of Communications; to make provision about the regulation of the provision of electronic communications networks and services and of the use of the electromagnetic spectrum; to make provision about the regulation of broadcasting and of the provision of television and radio services; to make provision about mergers involving newspaper and other media enterprises and, in that connection, to amend the Enterprise Act 2002; and for connected purposes.
The Act introduced new offences for ‘Improper use of public electronic communications network’, ‘dishonestly obtaining electronic communications services’ (Section 125), ‘possession or supply of apparatus etc. for contravening’ (Section 126), among other information disclosure offences.
The Crown Prosecution Service considers that the Section 125 charge of the CA may be more appropriate than one of obtaining services dishonestly contrary to Section 11 Fraud Act 2006; or a Section 1 Computer Misuse Act 1990 unauthorized access offence where access to a telecoms service was obtained without permission.
A cornerstone of media regulation since television and radio was first invented, section 320 requires that television and radio services conduct programming in an impartial way.
- "Man arrested over wi-fi 'theft'". BBC. 22 August 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-22. "Dishonestly obtaining free internet access is an offence under the Communications Act 2003 and a potential breach of the Computer Misuse Act."
- UK Office of Communications [4.4.1] | ICT Regulation Toolkit
- Department for Culture Media and Sport - media ownership
- Bishop, J. (2010). Tough on data misuse, tough on the causes of data misuse: A review of New Labour's approach to information security and regulating the misuse of digital information (1997–2010). International Review of Law, Computers & Technology 24 (3), 299-303. Available online
- Wireless hijacking under scrutiny: "A recent court case, which saw a West London man fined £500 and sentenced to 12 months' conditional discharge for unauthorised use of a wireless broadband connection, has repercussions for almost every user of wi-fi networks. ... Gaining unauthorised access to a computer is an offence covered by the Computer Misuse Act. In Straszkiewcz's case, he was prosecuted under the Communications Act and found guilty of dishonestly obtaining an electronic communications service."
For more on the regulation of communications in the UK, see Practical Law Company's Communications: a quick guide.
- Official text of the Communications Act 2003 as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from the UK Statute Law Database