Tuesday, 17 July 2018

DCMS' new Secretary of State must focus on closing the digital divide

By Chris Kelly, Total Telecom
Tuesday 10 July 18

The UK's Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has appointed a new Secretary of State – its fourth in the last two years

The UK has a new Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), following a governmental cabinet reshuffle.  Jeremy Wright has been named as the new Secretary of State for Digital, replacing Matt Hancock who was in the role for less than 6 months. Hancock was promoted to Secretary of State for Health, following a Brexit based backlash that led to five ministerial resignations in the UK overnight…

The UK has a new Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), following a governmental cabinet reshuffle. 
Jeremy Wright has been named as the new Secretary of State for Digital, replacing Matt Hancock who was in the role for less than 6 months. Hancock was promoted to Secretary of State for Health, following a Brexit based backlash that led to five ministerial resignations in the UK overnight. 
 
The UK's DCMS has been working hard to bridge the country's digital divide, and Wright will have his work cut out for him to ensure that it remains on track to meet its targets. Chief among these targets will be ensuring better connectivity for Britain's hard to reach rural communities. 
 
Speaking at the recent Connected Britain event in London, the UK's Minister for Digital, Margot James, said that reaching rural communities remained one of the government's top priorities. 
"If you look at that last 5 per cent of people who cannot receive superfast broadband, a lot of them live in rural communities. 5G has the potential to completely revolutionise the agricultural sector which is clearly based in rural areas, so I don't think that it is particularly good enough for us to take the same approach that we have taken to superfast where we roll it out in the cities and urban areas first and then worry about the rural areas later. I don't think that is acceptable and with the coming revelation that is 5G, it would represent an enormous opportunity missed," she said. 
 
It is estimated that 1.5 million people in the UK cannot currently access superfast broadband services. 
 
These sentiments were echoed by Tim Breitmeyer, president of the CLA, who is a long-term advocate of connectivity rights for Britain's rural population. 
 
“Rural businesses and communities deserve a better-connected countryside. More and more services are coming online but rural areas are still digitally disadvantaged by poor broadband and mobile coverage," he said. 
 
“We welcome the appointment of Jeremy Wright as the new Culture Secretary. With his digital team, he must continue pushing for a fully connected countryside so that people who live, work and visit there can enjoy the same advantages as in towns and cities, with the operators providing genuine national coverage.
 
“The future of the rural economy depends on fast, affordable and reliable connections. The CLA will keep up the pressure on Government, holding to account the promise of a Universal Service Obligation of 10Mbps by 2020 and forcing mobile network operators to resolve poor signal and mobile ‘not-spots’ to deliver 4G for all,” he added. 
 

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