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It is up to industry - and not Government - to ensure that Europe capitalises on broadband, according to ecommerce minister Douglas Alexander.

Speaking at the Europe21 conference in London yesterday Mr Alexander said that access to broadband would be "delivered primarily by market players, and not necessarily by governments".

He added: " (The) enduring challenge is now making widespread broadband use a reality. This is both a common challenge being faced by governments and businesses throughout Europe, and a common opportunity."

There is a real need to "interconnect European citizens, industries and governments by rolling out broadband networks" but that "this is primarily a matter for the private sector".

Last month the UK Government rejected calls for tax breaks to help subsidise the deployment of broadband in areas believed not to be commercially viable.

According to Alexander, the Government's role is to "promote broadband demand through policies to aggregate procurement of infrastructure and service requirements where appropriate."

On this issue specifically, he said that work has now started on how the Government can best use its broadband buying power to aid the roll-out of high speed Internet access.

Based in the Treasury's Office of Government Commerce (OGC), a newly created group will meet potential broadband suppliers and work with public sector buyers to identify and evaluate different procurement options.

Said Mr Alexander: "As a high spending organisation, the Government wields enormous purchasing power. The OGC team will identify the most effective means for the public sector to buy broadband services so ensuring that schools, hospitals and libraries can have better access to state of the art Internet services." ®

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