Stephen Timms brings significant telecommunications industry experience to his new Communications Minister role.
I understand that Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP is set to become the new Communications Minister, with responsibility for taking forward the recommendations of the Digital Britain broadband review. The position had been vacated when Lord Carter stepped down following the publication of the Review. It is likely that the role will change slightly, given that Mr Timms will sit jointly across the Department for Business and the Treasury, whereas Lord Carter’s position sat jointly across the Department for Business and the DCMS.
A former Internet Hero at the ISPAs, Stephen Timms brings significant experience to the role having worked in the telecommunications industry before entering Parliament and having previously served as a Minister with responsibility for e-Commerce at the DTI and BERR.
Whether the treasury connection will have any relevance remains to be seen. I see one of the biggest challenges for this Government is going to be how it faces up to the need to invest massively in the Next Generation Access network (ie fibre).
Whilst I was on holiday I visited my in laws in Liverpool. Grandad had saved me an article from the local paper describing the outcry amongst Liverpudlian councillors when they found that BT’s initial £1,5m investment in Fibre To The Cabinet was not going to be gracing their fair city with it’s presence whilst favouring local rivals Manchester. Nonsense I cried and reached for my BT FTTC broadband rollout map (never go anywhere without it).
To my surprise, he was right. All the dots identifying the initial (spring 2010) roll out sites come no closer than Altrincham. The good burghers of Liverpool should not feel that they have been singled out, because there will be huge swathes of the UK left out in the high speed broadband cold. I don’t for a moment blame BT, although I’m sure that competition from Virgin will in due course give them a bit of a prod in the right direction.
This is why I say that the Government has a lot to do in this space, and why I wish Stephen Timms every success in his new role.