Headlines: May 9th, 2001

The Government is to ensure its strategy to push new technology succeeds by using its own broadband procurement in a way that will have maximum impact on the availability of broadband to households and businesses in rural areas.The Government’s broadband strategy, UK online: the broadband future, commits it to ensuring that the UK has the most extensive and competitive broadband market in the G7 by 2005.

One possible hitch to the project is the technology companies’ view that some rural areas are uneconomic to serve.

As well as producing detailed plans about how to use the public sector’s procurement of broadband to solve the problem, a new consultancy project will also cost out how much it would cost to share with industry partners the commercial risk of rolling out in rural areas.

The project will build on recent work by Rothschilds for the DfEE that envisaged the need for all schools to have high speed internet connections within the next five to ten years. It will also take into account the planned and likely needs for broadband services from a range of public services with a local presence, such as libraries, GP surgeries, hospitals, police stations, and local government offices.

E-Minister Patricia Hewitt said: ‘In a small market town there might be no access to broadband and no plans from suppliers to serve it. But by aggregating the demand for broadband services from local schools, libraries, GPs, hospitals, police stations and any local authority service points in this market town we believe we can build a business case for a broadband supplier to serve not only these institutions but also the individuals and businesses in the town.’

The Government plans to appoint consultants in July, and for their report to be completed by September. The work is being led by the Office of the e-Envoy, supported by the Office of Government Commerce and other departments with an interest in broadband procurement.

‘UK online: the broadband future’ can be found on-line at www.e-envoy.gov.uk