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The British Government is planning to publish the first sections of its new Communications Bill later this summer following an initial round of consultation with industry groups.

The new legislation is a result of the Communications White Paper which was published last year and which, among other things, calls for the introduction of a super regulator, Ofcom.

Although drafting is at an early stage, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is currently seeking input from the industry on sections 42 to 46 of the 1984 Telecommunications Act which cover the fraudulent and improper use of telecoms systems.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) wants to know if these sections should be "retained, repealed or re-enacted in amended form to ensure that they apply to e-mail messages as well as voice messages".

It wants to ensure that if they are retained, that they would also apply to voice services, fax, e-mail, text messages and instant messaging.

The document notes that when the Telecommunications Act was enacted in 1984 "electronic mail and the Internet were both some way in the future and the offences in the Act were, therefore, conceived fundamentally to deal with voice as the then predominant form of communication".

Digital technologies now mean that virtually any form of content can be made via any transmission medium. This has eroded the distinctions that existed in 1984, and up until fairly recently, between telecommunications, broadcasting and computers, it says. ®

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