Fears over media ministry control of broadband

Industry officials and politicians have hit out over the decision to move governmental responsibility for telecoms, broadband provision and internet policy to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Fears over media ministry control of broadband

The Government has announced that the entire digital economy remit will be shifted from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills to the DCMS, but the move has been criticised as a marriage of convenience that could damage the UK’s technology future.

“Moving the entire responsibility to the DCMS is a huge concern,” Chi Onwurah, MP for Newcastle Central, told PC Pro. “I’ve just been in DCMS questions and it was almost entirely about sport and libraries – yet that’s where will have the debates on the digital economy and that is really worrying.”

The DCMS looks after interests in the music industry – which is a key areas surrounding internet policy at the moment

The DCMS will now take responsibility for broadband provision and rollout, the net neutrality debate, the Digital Economy Act and wider telecoms issues.

Onwurah, a former Ofcom head of telecoms technology, said she was concerned that there was insufficient technical knowledge within the DCMS and that the entertainment industry might have too much influence in the arena.

“BIS didn’t have all the skills, and although they are moving some of the people across, it’s really not appropriate,” Onwurah said. “There’s a danger of this area being captured by the content providers – they have a right to be heard, but they shouldn’t be the loudest voice.”

The politician’s fears were echoed by the ISP Association, which said it was following the situation carefully.

“We would rather this area was looked over by BIS, as it always has been,” an ISPA spokesperson said. “The DCMS looks after interests in the music industry – which is a key area surrounding internet policy at the moment, so it’s not great to see more power handed to a department that is not associated with our industry.”

Quick fix complaints

The ISPA was also critical of the way that the switch of responsibility for technology issues had been rushed through as a result of Business Secretary Vince Cable’s outburst against Sky owner Rupert Murdoch, which saw him stripped of his responsibilities for media issues.

“This all came about as the result of Vince Cable doing something wrong, so it’s not like it’s something that was planned as part of a measured process,” the spokesperson said.

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