Broadband roll-out, Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) and the associated super-connected cities programme will fall under the remit of new secretary of state for culture, media and sport John Whittingdale, who is to take charge at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the government has revealed.
Whittingdale’s appointment was confirmed by the government on 11 May 2015. However, at the time of writing, DCMS had not yet confirmed if Ed Vaizey, who served in the previous government as minister of state for culture and the digital economy, would be remaining in his post.
Whittingdale takes up his post following the promotion of his predecessor, Sajid Javid, to business secretary following the ousting of Liberal Democrat Vince Cable, as prime minister David Cameron moved to appoint the first all-Conservative cabinet to hold office since May 1997.
DCMS is currently managing the BDUK superfast broadband roll-out programme, the £1.7bn scheme to reach 95% of the UK with 24Mbps broadband by 2017.
BDUK formally announced it had passed two million premises – both residential and commercial properties – in February 2015.
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However, at the same time, it was heavily criticised by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which raised questions as to whether it presented value for money. It is likely that the PAC will revisit the issue again in the near future.
John Whittingdale entered parliament in the 1992 general election and currently represents the Maldon constituency in Essex. He is also vice-chairman of the Conservatives’ 1922 Committee, and in opposition, served as shadow secretary of state for culture, media and sport on two separate occasions.
He also chaired the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee and led its investigation into the News International phone-hacking scandal.
A staunch opponent of statutory press regulation, Whittingdale is thought likely to take a keen interest in how the BBC is funded going forward.