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Is Government aggregation scheme illegal?
Tuesday 05 August 2003 19:15:00 by Andrew Ferguson

Silicon.com has some interesting comments from various groups with stakes in broadband roll-out. Namely that the UK Governments plan for aggregation of public sector demand may break EU competition rules.

This appears to revolve around the problem that it may create small local monopolies for broadband in an area. Though this raises the interesting question of whether some areas will actually support more than one broadband provider. Competition is to be welcomed, and it can drive products forward both technically and lower prices, but if artificial competition is created it often ends up doing neither of these.

One quite valid point raised is that if a network provider wins the contract for all public sector access in an area and fails to perform what will happen? Would that area be allowed to change to another provider who perhaps offers a better service, but perhaps not at the lowest price. Certainly the call for these sorts of questions to be talked about between industry, the public sector and the DTI is something that must be supported. The concern is that this may just mean more committee meetings and more delays.

The issue of breaking EU competition rules raises the question should the same rules be applied to the whole UK? The UK is patently not uniformly populated and what works with regards to broadband roll in London/Cardiff/Edinburgh may not work in small market towns. I'm sure that there are many in non-broadband areas who would welcome just one provider, let alone a choice!

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