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The United Kingdom Internet Forum (UKIF) is forming an "ISP co-operative" to improve the purchasing power and commercial clout of some of the UK's smaller internet providers.

So far around 17 ISPs have signed up to the UK internet trade group's scheme which should help them pool orders for IT hardware and wholesale broadband, thus earning better discounts from suppliers.

UKIF is also launching an Enterprise Forum aimed at "helping companies across the UK develop their businesses [while] advancing the growth of broadband in the regions".

Although it's early days, organisers hope that Enterprise Forum will also help smaller ISPs win public sector contracts to supply broadband, even though they are excluded from bidding at the moment.

A year ago the Government approved 17 companies - including BT, C&W, Energis, NTL and Thus - to bid for public sector contracts for broadband as part of ambitious aggregation plans to pool £1bn of government spending on high-speed Internet services.

Since then, though, the future of the aggregation scheme has been thrown in doubt after two regional aggregation boards (ADITs) closed, along with the central umbrella group.

The Register understands that some of the ADITs have been frustrated by the lack of co-operation being shown by the 17 broadband companies. For while broadband providers are happy to win contracts for commercially lucrative regions, many are less keen to invest in less economically viable areas.

UKIF wants to change that and pressure Government to give smaller broadband providers - which have lower overheads than the larger ISPs - the chance to bid for public sector contracts.

Said UKIF MD Jonny Mulligan: "UKIF encourages the development of a network of organisations across the UK. Our research shows us several larger ISPs are interested in developing wholesale partnerships. The introduction of the co-operative buying scheme means that subscribers can secure discounts on wholesale broadband...as well as on hardware products."

Adit North East, one of the DTI regional aggregation bodies, is to host the first Enterprise Forum in Leeds at the end of March. ®

Related stories

Blair's broadband scheme canned
Two regional broadband bodies fold
Gov UK names broadband aggregation bidders
ISPA bigwig resigns over support for UKIF

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