Cambridge broadband £29m deal

Cambridgeshire County Council has awarded a £29m, eight-year contract to NTL Business to develop a county-wide broadband network...

Cambridgeshire County Council has awarded a £29m, eight-year contract to NTL Business to develop a county-wide broadband network linking council offices, schools, libraries and public access points such as community centres.

Council officials said that by April 2004 the Cambridgeshire Community Network will link more than 300 locations.

John Little, head of IT at Cambridgeshire County Council, said, "Broadband is fundamental to what we are trying to do over the next few years - it underpins our e-government services and increases our accessibility to the public."

Local people will be able to access the network from one of more than 200 computers situated around the county using high-speed broadband cable connections. Little said services available to residents over the network will include electronic transactions in libraries and videoconferencing with council departments.

Officials also expect the network to boost Cambridgeshire's modernisation of public services, enabling the introduction of an Internet community portal and smartcards for access to services such as transport and leisure.

The network is based on a Gigabit backbone linking four major council sites in Cambridge, Ely, Huntingdon, and March and is supported by a wireless back-up link.

The network is the first county-wide broadband project to be awarded Pathfinder status - e-government trailblazers that are designed to foster best practice among local authorities.

The Government is keen to boost the roll-out of broadband. Last month the Office of Government Commerce advertised in the Official Journal of the European Communities inviting suppliers to register an interest in bidding to provide the technology across local and national government bodies.

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