Govt ready to exploit broadband buying power

The government has finally created the organisations that will drive forward its public sector broadband strategy.

The government has finally created the organisations that will drive forward its public sector broadband strategy.

E-commerce minister Stephen Timms has announced the establishment of nine new regional bodies to exploit local broadband buying power.

From October, the new Regional Aggregation Bodies will buy broadband services for public sector organisations, initially focusing on education and health.

The move comes two years after e-envoy Andrew Pinder first mooted the idea of aggregating public sector broadband demand to encourage suppliers to roll out fast internet services to areas that would otherwise be considered uncommercial.

Whitehall and the rest of the UK public sector expect to spend £1bn on broadband over the next three years. Timms said, "The RABs will ensure that we make the most of that substantial buying power."

"Not only will this mean maximum value for money for the taxpayer, but it will also bring broadband to parts of the country that otherwise might find it difficult to get access," he added.

The first customers to make use of the RABs will be schools and hospitals. The department for education and skills is working towards a 2006 target for providing broadband access to every school.

Government officials also aim to support a minimum 256k broadband connection for GPs' surgeries and sufficient bandwidth to support key elements of the health service's technology overhaul. This includes the use of electronic patient records and the transfer of data-intensive images via e-mail.

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