When is a Jolly not a Jolly?

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At long last the DCMS Select Committee are off on a jolly to visit Washington DC, on the 8th of February, in respect of gathering “facts” for their Fake News Inquiry. Hopefully they shall gather a proper perspective on the US Open Internet and Net Neutrality debate also. Actually, this is no jolly.

Instead, I believe, it is a serious attempt at gathering first hand otherwise unattainable backdrop evidence. Direct video links cannot substitute for off the record conversations to support the proposed 5 hours of on the record evidence at George Washington University. I have watched Parliament TV video links before. They are not always proper.

However, it is not the Fake News Inquiry which needs scrutiny here just now, that can keep till they all get back from the States and have thought it over and discussed it as a committee, but instead it is the changes in leadership at DCMS and OFCOM that is becoming a prime concern.

As for Karen Bradley who was just settling in, what did she do wrong to deserve the NI portfolio?
Or more seriously is her move related to the future application of eBorders? Well, it shows that the PM May trusts her for this key Brexit post.

Unfortunately for us, surely the last thing DCMS needs is to lose a mathematician to be replaced by another economist?
Yes, Mathew Hancock, our new Secretary of State, is an economist. Oxford PPE naturally! And also the protégé of George Osborne while at the Treasury. Our boy Hancock has form as they say. But what of the new Chair at OFCOM, Lord Burns, also formerly of the Treasury? Where is the stability here to make sure continuity both in strategy and policy?

As for the former Chair Dame Patricia Hodgson, she was not granted the valedictory hearing she sought. That is all you need to know about her tenure.

Just as a matter of interest, given Lord Burns comments about being Sharon Whites boss while at the Treasury (given before the DCMS Select Committee pre-appointment hearing on the 13th December) the thought did occur to me that the real reason for Lord Burns's appointment was to provide adequate support for Sharon and stop her jumping ship to some extremely well-paid directorship. If so, then it is a good appointment.

The problem here, however, is that there are serious consequences, especially, if you throw in economist Sue Owen as PPS, then the DCMS and OFCOM economic regulator duopoly are now managed by economists all. Not a single technologist in plain sight.

Given this unbalanced oversight which has now arisen alas groupthink is now unavoidable. Recall that Tom Wheeler, Ajit Pai and both the FCC and NTIA's leadership all hail from our industry. Consequently it shall be a very real and fundamental problem for the UK technology sectors to overcome for 5G and an Open Internet for the 4th Industrial Revolution. I shall comment on the Cardiff connections another time.

One concern I will highlight here is about groupthink relates to the EU General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) Bill being passed through parliament at the moment for implementation in May. As the new NTIA Assistant Secretary David Redl made clear, at the State of the Net Conference on the 29th January, that his prime policy concern is with the preservation of the WHOIS service which provides information on the entities that purchase and use domain names at ICANN in relation to GDPR. David stated:

“If you don't know much about the WHOIS service, it is an incredibly valuable tool for governments, businesses, intellectual property rights holders, and individual Internet users around the world. Put simply, WHOIS is a service that provides easily accessible information about the entities that purchase and manage domain names.