ZDNet UK has been talking with Stephen Timms the E-commerce minister about what the Government has planned for broadband.
Apparently we are to see the creation of nine new agencies called Regional Aggregation Bodies (RABs). The aim of these agencies will be to assess how much demand there is for broadband from the public sector in an area and then telecoms providers will be invited to pitch for the contract in that area. Initially the demand will be based around schools and hospitals, with a wider group of public sector institutions being considered at a later date. Timescale wise the RABs will not be running until October, and the first contract will hopefully be awarded around April 2004.
It would appear the government is banking once again on the idea that when public sector demand has been satisfied that it will make economic sense for the teleco to offer broadband to the general public and businesses in the area. This does not seem much of a change from the current situation, since it is still left to market forces, providing broadband to a few buildings in an area is very different to satisfying demand for hundreds or thousands of households/businesses.
Looking at the feedback from people in our forums it would appear that many see this news as just another way of burning money, and making it look like the Government is working hard to make Broadband Britain a reality. One thing not clear in the ZDNet article is whether the RABs will concentrate on the section of the population who have no decent affordable broadband access or will their efforts result in duplication of effort in areas that already have ADSL/Cable/Wireless broadband, or are likely to see it in the next 12 months?
One other aspect is where does this initiative leave RDAs who while criticised for the cost of various projects versus the benefits are starting to get upto speed now on Broadband?
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