Stephen Timms to take charge of 'Digital Britain'
The Digital Britain report saw its head announce that he was to leave around the time the report was published, and now we know who is successor will be, Treasury minister Stephen Timms (MP for East Ham). The BBC reports that Mr Timms will remain in his Treasury role and report to both Lord Mandelson and Ben Bradshaw.
Stephen Timms has previously had a spell as the e-commerce minister, and worked for Logica and Ovum between 1978 and 1994, more information on his political profile at The Guardian.
If the Digital Britain report is not to become just another inch thick book sat on book shelves it will need someone with a strong direction, and the ability to make sure things move quickly. The proposed £6 a year charge on all fixed line telephone lines has drawn a fair bit of criticism, the most vocal of which seems to be those who are asking why they should be paying into a fund that they will never benefit from.
The Digital Britain report covers a very wide area, and it will be very easy for those driving the report forward to overlook parts of the report. The broadband aspects were somewhat wishy washy, the only hope is that when more detail is announced on how the Universal Service Commitment will be implemented later this year that much firmer information will be forthcoming. The recent Ofcom speed report at times talked as if the 2Mbps figure was a throughput guarantee, whereas the Digital Britain report talks in terms of 2Mbps connection speed - which are two very different things.
With the UK guaranteed to have a General Election by June 2010 at the latest, there is a degree of urgency to ensure that Digital Britain moves forward quickly. Even if the Labour party returns to power, General Elections are always an odd time, and new agenda's can takeover, or ministers heading up areas find themselves without a seat in Parliament.
Without a doubt the UK will get broadband capable of speeds similar to the rest of the world, but it is likely that we will remain two to three years or more behind the leading edge. We may be leaders in terms of coverage, but in terms of the range of products available to consumers things are very limited, part of this is down to city/borough councils taking a back seat in the broadband infrastructure race.