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Task force to drive down broadband costs

Mike Simons
The government has launched a task force to aggregate public sector broadband demand in a bid to make it cost effective for telecoms suppliers to widen the high-speed Internet infrastructure.

The team from the Treasury's Office of Government Commerce (OGC) will meet with public sector buyers, ranging from councils and schools to the NHS and emergency services over the next month to evaluate procurement options.

It will also meet potential broadband suppliers over the next six weeks to thrash out delivery mechanisms.

In addition, the task force will work with Government departments defining their need for broadband services, by analysing the impact of different procurement models, and their likely impact on the availability of broadband.

Speaking at the Europe21 conference in London, E-commerce Minister Douglas Alexander said: "The OGC's broadband procurement team will play an integral part in making our vision for Broadband Britain a reality."

The public sector spends an estimated £1.7bn in IT and communications technology each year. "As a high spending organisation, the Government wields enormous purchasing power," said Alexander

The e-Envoy's department will buttress the OGC by helping government departments evaluate their demand for broadband services and by analysing the impact of different procurement models on competition, and their likely impact on the availability of broadband.

The prime minister, Tony Blair, first announced the OGC's broadband initiative last November.

However, e-envoy Andrew Pinder first proposed the idea of the public sector aggregating its broadband demand in January 2001.

Pinder argued forcefully that the strategy could allow the public sector to improve services and reduce costs. He also believed that it could act as a catalyst to get telecom providers to roll out the technology to parts of the country that would otherwise be "bandwidth-challenged".

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