BDUK head Chris Townsend to step down

Government executive Chris Townsend, who oversees the DCMS-run BDUK rural broadband programme, is to step down in April

Chris Townsend, CEO of Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), is to step down from the role in April 2017 after three years in charge of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) rural broadband scheme.

Townsend, who, according to Thinkbroadband, is joining Chelsea FC in a commercial role, fetched up at BDUK in 2014, after serving as commercial director for the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games 2012 (Locog). He was also previously CIO of Transport for London (TfL), and also worked at BSkyB and TeleWest.

“I have enjoyed my three years as CEO of BDUK and it has been an honour and a privilege to lead a high-performing team which has achieved outstanding results. I am proud to have been a DCMS board director and part of the executive leadership team which has secured an outstanding rise in staff engagement over the last three years,” said Townsend in a statement sent to Computer Weekly.          

“I would like to extend my thanks to the secretary of state and her ministerial team for the support given in order to achieve the success of BDUK to date. We are on track to achieve the 95% target by December 2017.”

During his time steering the oft-times controversial BDUK organisation, Townsend presided over the bulk of its roll-out activity, which ramped up dramatically in terms of premises passed in the summer and autumn of 2014, with a peak of work around the UK carried out in 2015.

More recently, BDUK has begun to recover funds from BT as part of a so-called “claw-back” reinvestment mechanism written into its original contracts, allowing it to plough money back into the programme as it strives to address the needs of the hardest-to-reach areas.

Additionally, the later stages of the programme have seen more contracts awarded to smaller rural fibre specialists, or altnets, such as Gigaclear, as opposed to BT, which won all of the first stage business. In 2016, the government conceded that altnets could indeed compete on a level playing field with BT. This led to some areas starting to receive more future-proof fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) network options, as opposed to BT’s preferred fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) solution.

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Culture secretary Karen Bradley said: “Chris brought a wealth of experience with him to the DCMS when he joined three years ago, and has overseen a remarkable transformation of the UK’s digital landscape. More than nine out of 10 homes and businesses now have access to superfast broadband and we are on track to reach 95% by the end of this year.

“I wish Chris all the best for this exciting career move, and thank him for the tremendous contribution he has made to the work of the department,” she concluded.

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