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Easynet in new drive for public sector BB aggregation

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The Government's bid to bring broadband to areas of the UK currently not served by affordable high-speed Net access took a step forward today after Easynet announced its plans to tap into public sector demand for broadband by offering services through unbundled local exchanges.

One of six operators chosen earlier this year by the Government to provide broadband services to the public sector, Easynet has launched a new scheme that relies on demand for services from the public sector and business to trigger the roll-out of broadband services in local exchanges.

The scheme - called Easynet Exchange Enable (E3) - is designed to cash-in on the £1 billion of public sector money due to be spent over the next three years to bring broadband to schools, libraries, GP surgeries etc.

The theory, according to the Government, is that by aggregating public sector demand for broadband it will entice operators to provide broadband in areas currently deemed commercially unviable for such investment.

In many ways, E3 is similar to BT's pre-registration system, which sets demand levels for exchanges not currently converted to ADSL. BT agrees to upgrade exchanges to ADSL once sufficient demand has been generated.

However, Easynet insists that E3 is different. Crucially, it claims, the trigger levels for exchanges are lower because it is based on confirmed demand from public sector organisations and local businesses, making it easier for communities to get broadband.

The products on offer will come directly from Easynet, which will install its own kit in BT exchanges to offer broadband services directly to end users over the "last mile of copper wire" or "local loop".

So as well as extending the roll-out of broadband, E3 could also provide a much-needed shot in the arm for local loop unbundling (LLU) in the UK by providing a new level of competition with dominant telco BT.

In a statement Easynet chief exec David Rowe said: "We’ve worked with the public sector to provide a sustainable business model to achieve government targets for broadband locally in both the public and private sectors.

"E3 supports the objectives of the newly formed Regional Aggregation Boards (RABs), which will coordinate public sector demand for broadband access in local area."

Yesterday, lobby group, Broadband4Britain, expressed its reservations about the Government's aggregation plans warning that operators could be handed contracts to wire up rural areas without assurances that those publicly-funded networks would be opened up to rival operators. ®

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