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Oliver Dowden Named New UK Digital and Culture Secretary

Thursday, February 13th, 2020 (3:20 pm) - Score 1,435
Oliver_Dowden_mp_uk

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has initiated yet another cabinet reshuffle. As a result Nicky Morgan has been replaced by Oliver Dowden CBE (MP for Hertsmere) as the Secretary of State for the the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), who among other things will oversee the roll-out of gigabit broadband.

Sadly Culture Secretary’s never seem to last very long in the job. Indeed Nicky Morgan only took on the role at the end of July 2019 (here) and, before her, Jeremy Wright held the position for a similarly short period of time. Let’s hope that, for once, the Government can achieve some continuity by keeping the new top dog at the DCMS in situ for a little bit longer this time (place your bets..).

As for the new man in charge. Oliver Dowden studied law at Cambridge University and spent 5 years advising the former Prime Minister, David Cameron, on a variety of challenges while he was in office between 2010 and 2015. After that he was elected to become the MP for Hertsmere and held some junior roles. Dowden was opposed to Brexit prior to the 2016 referendum but has generally stayed loyal to the Government since then.

As a fairly new MP we haven’t really seen Dowden make his mark in terms of broadband and mobile connectivity. Nevertheless he will now have the tricky task of helping to oversee the development of a new framework to help the Government make “gigabit-capable broadband” available to every home by the end of 2025 (here), which includes £5bn to upgrade the infrastructure for those living in the hardest to reach 20% of premises.

On top of that he’ll need to ensure that the major mobile network operators – Three UK, Vodafone, O2 and EE (BT) – can all come to some agreement on the costings for implementing the new £1bn Shared Rural Network (SRN), which aims to extend geographic 4G / 5G mobile (mobile broadband) coverage to 95% of the UK by 2025. Ideally he’ll want to do that before next month’s budget, which should be fun.

Finally, there’s the thorny subject of implementing the Online Harms proposals, which will position Ofcom to take on the tedious role of becoming a regulator for “harmful” internet content (here). Suffice to say that Dowden is being thrown in at the deep end and we wish him the best of luck, for however long he lasts in the position.

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