New UK Prime Minister Liz Truss has appointed Michelle Donelan as secretary of state for digital, culture, media, and sport (DCMS).
Replacing Nadine Dorries, Donelan was briefly education secretary in former premier Boris Johnson’s final cabinet, following the mass resignations that ultimately led to his demise.
Little is known about Donelan’s plans for her new brief and whether she will continue her predecessor’s plans for the online safety bill and government support for the rollout of gigabit broadband.
However, in her first speech as Prime Minister outside Downing Street, Truss cited connectivity upgrades as one of her key priorities.
“We will get spades in the ground to make sure people are not facing unaffordable energy bills and we will also make sure, that we are building hospitals, schools, roads, and broadband.”
Truss revealed few specifics about her plans for broadband during her campaign, although the Conservative manifesto ahead of the 2019 General Election promised nationwide fibre to the premise (FTTP) coverage by 2025 but the government has since backtracked. The revised target is 85%, with the government also backing down on its commitment to using full fibre.
Meanwhile, just £1.2 billion of £5 billion in promised funding will be delivered during this Parliament. Nonetheless, the government has been keen to tout progress thanks to investments made by the commercial sector.
"Despite a well-publicised visit to CityFibre in Leeds, Truss said fairly little on the subject of telecoms, beyond stating that she wanted to level up infrastructure in places where broadband and mobile coverage is currently poor,” commented James Robinson, senior analyst at Assembly.
“Broadband builders will want to know whether the ‘super deduction’ tax relief for infrastructure investment will continue. Given this was a Sunak initiative, and Truss’s choice for Chancellor is keen to do things differently, it seems unlikely to survive in current form. Without a replacement, going beyond today’s 70% gigabit broadband coverage would get that bit harder."
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