Government to galvanise rural broadband roll-out

The government will aggregate public sector demand for broadband in rural areas, in a bid to encourage suppliers to offer...

The government will aggregate public sector demand for broadband in rural areas, in a bid to encourage suppliers to offer services to remote communities.

E-Minister Patricia Hewitt believes the move to aggregate demand for broadband services for local schools, libraries, GPs, hospitals and police stations will help build a business case for suppliers to offer services to individuals and businesses.

"High speed Internet connections will be as important to our economy as modern roads and railways. In the aftermath of foot and mouth disease, broadband connections could play a crucial role in helping to revitalise rural economies in hard hit areas like Devon, Cornwall and Cumbria," said Hewitt.

The new project will also evaluate the cost and benefits of further measures the government could take to share with industry partners the commercial risk of rolling out broadband.

The initiative has been met with some scepticism by the telecom industry. The Communication Managers Association said it welcomed any move to aid broadband roll-out but expressed concern about the timing and nature of the new project.

A spokesman said; "Suppliers will have to be convinced that an uncommercial area is commercially viable. This will not be easy and can only be achieved if these areas are actually made commercial.

"I am afraid that this sounds like the e-minister could be barking up the wrong tree. The close proximity of the election is also a concern as this is sure to delay any new moves aimed at increasing broadband services."

Bruce Ackland

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