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Yet another pricey Olympics' exec drafted in by UK.gov - this time for broadband spending

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The Tory-led UK government is desperate for success stories with its big IT projects. As Whitehall ministers increasingly confess to big problems with various tech deployments, they keep turning to the private sector - and specifically execs who delivered the London 2012 Olympic Games* - to help rescue troubled schemes.

Step forward Chris Townsend as the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's new broadband boss.

He most recently served as Locog's commercial director and has now been drafted in by the Ministry of Fun to steer its delayed £1.2bn Broadband UK Delivery (BDUK) project.

Townsend's salary and "a significant performance based element" will hit around £200,000 for the extremely well-paid public sector job.

Before his Locog gig, Townsend held marketing directorships at Transport for London, and, perhaps more significantly, BSkyB.

In a canned statement, BDUK's new boss said:

Ensuring that broadband can reach businesses and consumers across the country is one of the most important policies in Government. Faster connections will improve the way people live, work and spend their leisure time.

I look forward to starting my new role as chief executive of BDUK and building on the good work being done to get superfast broadband to people all over the UK.

The DCMS also gave alternative tech providers more details this morning on the £10m cash pile announced in December. They're expected to enter their bids in mid-March to pay for testing ways of deploying superfast broadband connections to Brits living in remote parts of the country.

Ideas floated include satellite tech, fibre-to-the-premises, 4G mobile signals. The aim is to reduce reliance on the copper cabling that telecoms giant BT - controversially the only provider to have bagged millions of pounds of local government BDUK contracts - continues to use for the majority of properties that are linked up to its fibre network via streetside cabinets.

Last year, culture minister Maria Miller was forced to reset the government's over-ambitious plans to roll out speedier broadband networks to 90 per cent of Blighty by 2015 by finally confessing it would be two years late.

Her department now claims that the BDUK programme will have reached 95 per cent of Britain by 2017.

Hooking up the final 5 per cent under that scheme is challenging, Miller has said, which in part might explain the need for added investment.

But it also points to another obvious failing: the extra 5 per cent of Brits were never part of the original plan and the 95 per cent figure was hastily talked up in what largely appeared to be a face-saving exercise in Whitehall, after it could no longer hide the fact that its deadline would be missed. ®

*In May 2013, the government brought in Howard Shiplee to oversee the Department for Work and Pensions' crisis-hit one-dole-to-rule-them-all IT system. He had previously been in charge of building the Olympics Park.

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