Rutland, the UK's smallest county, is seeking a broadband network operator to supply its 15,000 premises with next generation broadband access, and is budgeting between £5m and £15m for the task.
The county council's request for expressions of interest says the winner could be a consortium. The final grant contract will be based on open book accounting principles, it said.
Services supplied over the network are not part of the deal, and the council hopes to attract a range of competitive service providers to use the network.
In addition, it would not consider proposals for a managed network. "The grant contract will not be to provide services to the contracting authority," it said.
Instead, there was an "emerging digital Rutland public/private sector partnership" which would aggregate public sector and commercial demand and commit to using the proposed network, it said.
Rutland has roughly 12,000 homes and 3,000 business premises in an area just 16 miles by 16 miles between the cities of Nottingham, Leicester, Peterborough and Northampton.
"Broadband provision across the county is in need of being substantially improved," it said. It aimed to
• Provide next generation broadband for a minimum of 99% of the county by 2012/13
• Have at least 20% fibre to the cabinet/fibre to the premises technology throughout Rutland
• Run an open network that would lead to a range of communication providers in the market place for both wholesale and retail markets
• Increased demand and consumer choice in communication providers, and increase competition for ISP provision and cheaper applications and services
The council said it would work with bidders in a competitive bidding process to resolve funding issues where there were gaps, and had already applied for a grant for regional development.
The deadline for enquiries is 21 March and the deadline for submissions of interest is 3 May.