Broadband funds tackle digital divide

15 Feb 01
E-minister Patricia Hewitt has defended the decision to allocate only £30m towards the government's goal of extensive fast broadband Internet access across Britain by 2005.

16 February 2001

Hewitt said the money will be used to extend broadband technology outside metropolitan areas: 'We do not want a nation of have-nets and have-nots. The new £30m fund will help ensure that a digital divide in high-speed Internet access does not open up between urban and rural communities.'

Hewitt said broadband technology provides a faster, more efficient and richer Internet service.

The £30m package compares unfavourably with the investment in broadband roll-out made by other countries. The Swedish government announced a SKr17bn package (£1.19bn) last year and Ireland has committed IR£120m (£96.1m) to its broadband programme.

But Hewitt said: 'What we don't want to do is commit ourselves as a government to investing an enormous amount of money to something the market would do anyway. That wouldn't be a very prudent use of taxpayers' money.'

The £30m fund will be made available over the next three years to assist devolved administrations and regional development agencies (RDAs) in developing unspecified 'innovative schemes' to extend the broadband network.

The extra funding was announced at the February 13 launch of the government's report, UK on-line: the broadband future.

The report states that broadband delivery for town halls, schools and surgeries would benefit from more co-ordinated procurement strategies.

RDAs will be responsible for integrating the currently fragmented public service demand. Co-ordination should ensure value for money and make broadband companies more aware of the public sector's requirements.


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