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Bulk buying broadband

Government pushes high-speed internet to the public sector

The government has a new scheme designed to bring broadband to more communities and businesses. E-commerce minister Stephen Timms announced plans to set up nine new Regional Aggregation Bodies (RABs), one for each of the English regions. The RABs will buy up broadband connections in bulk for public sector organisations and their customers.

The idea is that the RABs collect together all the public sector broadband requirements, such as those from schools and hospitals, and present them as a bigger package to the market. The aim is to encourage broadband providers to set up connections in new areas, and to deliver cost savings to taxpayers, by buying in bulk.

Timms says that the public sector will spend £1bn on broadband in the next three years, and that this scheme will mean it gets the most for its money as well as benefitting more remote areas, where delivering broadband might not have been so attractive to the providers.

"This project offers real opportunities for extending broadband to in rural areas and opening up the opportunity to rural communities", said rural affairs minister Alun Michaels, in response to the announcement.

The RABs' top priority will be to secure broadband for schools and hospitals in a bid to meet the government target of getting broadband into all schools by 2006. It will also be used to further plans to provide NHS sites with sufficient bandwidth to be able to use electronic patient records and transmit high-resolution images via email.

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