Friday, 23 June 2017

UK digital minister at pains to reassure industry amid hung parliament

By Nick Wood, Total Telecom
Wednesday 14 June 17

Recently re-elected Matt Hancock reiterates government's 'direction of travel' on connectivity.

U.K. minister of state for digital and culture Matt Hancock, who was re-elected less than a week ago in an election that resulted in a hung parliament, on Wednesday sought to reassure the industry about the government's plans to improve connectivity. Opening Total Telecom's Connected Britain event in London…

U.K. minister of state for digital and culture Matt Hancock, who was re-elected less than a week ago in an election that resulted in a hung parliament, on Wednesday sought to reassure the industry about the government's plans to improve connectivity.

Opening Total Telecom's Connected Britain event in London, Hancock insisted that "the direction of travel" regarding telecoms policy remains unchanged.

"With the return of myself as minister for digital and culture and Karen Bradley as the secretary of state [for culture, media and sport], we have our feet very firmly under the table 48 hours after reappointment, and we've got a lot of work to do and we're very enthused about getting on with it," he said.

The work Hancock referred to covers the Digital Economy Bill, which passed into law in late April, and includes a universal service obligation (USO) that gives consumers the right to request a minimum 10-Mbps broadband service.

The Bill also includes reforms to the Electronic Communications Code (ECC) that will exempt certain telecoms infrastructure like cabinets and overhead cables from needing planning permission.

The legislation also requires telcos to automatically compensate broadband customers if they experience a loss or reduction in service quality.

That's not all though. Hancock and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) also have to implement policies announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond in both the Autumn Statement and Spring Budget.

These include establishing a £400 million Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund, which aims to stimulate investment in full-fibre networks and 5G trials, and launching a 5G facility designed to spur research into use cases for various industry verticals.

All this, against the backdrop of a hung parliament that could still lead to another general election sooner rather than later, that may result in Hancock and Bradley being booted out of office.

"There is a whole series of strands of work but it is united and pulled together behind the clear goal of improving digital connectivity, whether it is fixed or mobile, or a combination of the two," Hancock said.

Improvements to the rollout and uptake of high-speed broadband in the U.K. are steadily being made, he said, however, "we all know there is a demand and appetite to do more.

"I'm delighted to be back to deliver just that."

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