Data Centre

Networks

Ed Vaizey is right, Matt Hancock hasn't improved broadband

'Hancock pinched all my ideas' jokes former digi minister

By Kat Hall

5 SHARE

Comment For all digital minister Matt Hancock's rhetoric about 'full-fibre' investment, Blighty's digital infrastructure still remains unchanged.

In the budget yesterday, yet more announcements were made about 5G and full-fibre broadband.

However, according to insiders the £400m for fibre funding, announced in the autumn statement last year, has yet to be allocated.

So when former digital minister Ed Vaizey told delegates at the Parliament and Internet Conference this week that he doesn't think much has changed under Hancock's tenure as digi minister, you can see his point. Vaizey had held that post for six years.

He said: "I was until July 14th 2016 the telecoms minister but I got fired at 5.37pm. I am not bitter about it," he said. "I got a call from Downing Street and they said the prime minister will call in 15 minutes... and as I drove off I realised I lost my mobile signal, so I kept my job slightly longer because of my abject failure to improve mobile coverage in the UK."

He joked that Hancock had "stolen all my ideas", such as tax relief for new investment and making it easier for local councils to grant planning permission.

Vaizey has repeatedly been accused of being a BT apologist, most notably for his role in the Broadband UK programme, which eventually saw the former state monopoly win all the contracts.

But that programme is now on track to deliver superfast broadband to 95 per cent of the UK by 2018, something Vaizey said he feels "utterly vindicated" about. "I don't think Hancock has done any better or worse than I would have done," he said.

"He's not exposed some hidden silver bullet, and isn't going to deliver revolutionary broadband," he said. "As a nation we've not sprinted ahead or fallen behind... even Matt Hancock who is several levels above me in terms of energy and capability has not been able to discover a new way forward."

For Vaizey, there have been far worse programmes than the rural broadband project. "Smart meters has been one of worst run programme in government... It has been an absolute catastrophe," he said. "It shows you how well run rural broadband programme was [by contrast]."

(Although former Public Accounts Committee head Margaret Hodge clocked the committee's failure to convince the Department for Culture Media and Sport not give BT all of the £2bn of public subsidy, as a defeat).

Certainly until we start seeing some stats to suggest the UK's fibre infrastructure has increased from just 2 per cent, or progress on connecting the last few per cent who cannot get even 10Mbps, Hancock cannot claim to have moved the dial. ®

Sign up to our NewsletterGet IT in your inbox daily

5 Comments

More from The Register

After all that! Ofcom proposes BT as only broadband universal services provider for whole of UK (except Hull)

Just 8 telcos applied, most didn't meet critera

AT&T (sucks) upgrades folks to 5G (Evolution) that isn't actually 5G

Job numbers, coverage ... is there anything US telco giant hasn't been accused of inflating?

Ofcom to networks: Want this delicious 5G spectrum? You'll have to improve 4G coverage

Better LTE for bumpkins wedged into mobe operators' bids

1.5m Brits pay too much for mobile and crappy broadband – Ofcom

Wake up, people!

Mobile ops and Wi-Fi set to scrap for spectrum in the glorious 5G future

To the death? Not necessarily, but the gloves are off

Huawei's 5G security scrutiny pain could be Cisco's gain – analysts

Have enterprise networking portfolio, will travel

Qualcomm all ye faithful: 5G's soon triumphant... like 2020 soon. Really

We just modem down with that headline (OK maybe not)

Big Q. Tch, what could have persuaded Intel to bring forward 5G chip production six months?

Clue's in the headline. And more importantly: Will anyone but Cupertino care?

'Year-long' delay to UK 5G if we spike Huawei deals, say telcos

O2 presses on with Chinese supplier

Ofcom head Sharon White slams 5G hold-up in spectrum auction

But sources say critique is 'politically expedient'