Funding still a problem as minister launches Broadband Taskforce

E-commerce minister Stephen Timms officially launched the government's UK Broadband Taskforce today (Wednesday), just as a new...

E-commerce minister Stephen Timms officially launched the government's UK Broadband Taskforce today (Wednesday), just as a new survey revealed the scale of the task in delivering high-speed Internet across the country.

Speaking at the Building Broadband Britain Conference in Birmingham, Timms emphasised the role of local authorities in the process.

"The new UK broadband taskforce is a central part of the government's strategy for delivering the right broadband environment at regional and local level.

"It will work directly with public sector organisations through a network of broadband co-ordinators, providing specialist advice on procurement and best practice, and generating private sector investment will make sure that the right people get the right services at the right price."

A report, commissioned by the Department of Trade and Industry and produced by the Society of Information Technology Management (Socitm), the local government IT directors' organisation, gives an indication of what needs to be done.

The most frequently cited barriers to broadband take-up among the 167 local authorities surveyed was lack of funding, and the complexity of accessing the funding that is available.

Other significant barriers are lack of a business case and reluctance to be dependent on a single infrastructure supplier, Socitm found.

The survey found 80% of the larger authorities would be committed to a strategic approach to broadband across their networks by September 2004, compared with only 30% of shire districts.

Martin Greenwood, programme manager for Socitm Insight, which produced the report, welcomed the rising commitment to broadband that the survey revealed.

"The implementation of broadband heralds another important step change in the application of IT to local government, and the potential it delivers for sharing information and services will be a stimulus to joined-up government," he said.

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