The European Commission (EC), which officially cleared the release of state aid funding for UK superfast broadband deployment projects last November (original news), has now released the final documentation that describes the reasoning for their decision in more detail.
In the end Europe only requested several “relatively minor changes” to the related Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) framework, such as to ensure that any new projects that were funded by the £530m scheme could meet with the EU’s minimum Digital Agenda download speed target of 30Mbps+ (Megabits per second) for all by 2020 (the UK government defines superfast broadband as 25Mbps+ and targets coverage for 90% of the country by spring 2015).
The commission also told the UK to ensure that any “future revisions” of the EU Broadband Guidelines, which were officially adopted one month later (December 2012), would also be reflected via appropriate measures in the BDUK scheme.
Europe’s Decision on UK State Aid Broadband Funding (BDUK)
“On the basis of the foregoing assessment, the Commission has accordingly decided that the aid measure “National Broadband scheme for the UK – Broadband Delivery UK” is compatible with Article 107(3)(c) TFEU.
The UK is reminded that, pursuant to Article 108(3) TFEU, they are obliged to inform the Commission of any plan to extend or amend the measure. In view of the duration of the scheme, the Commission would like to draw the UK’s attention to future revisions of the Broadband Guidelines, which might require appropriate measures to the scheme necessary.
The UK has committed itself to submit an evaluation of the scheme to the Commission before 31 March 2015 and the re-notification of the scheme shall be subject to the results of that evaluation.”
The EC ultimately concluded that the “overall effect” of BDUK is “deemed to be positive” and in line with Europe’s Digital Agenda objectives. The commission claimed that the UK’s intervention (public funding) was “designed in a way that does not distort competition or adversely affect trading conditions to an extent contrary to the common interest.” Some might disagree given that BT seems to be the only viable bidder and inevitable beneficiary.
Generally speaking the final document, which was spotted in the wild by Thinkbroadband, doesn’t offer any fundamentally new information, beyond what was announced in November 2012; though it does add some technical background.
Last year’s funding approval mostly just reiterated BDUK’s original goals. Indeed we’re still waiting for the UK to setup a “national competence centre” to help advise smaller local authorities and the BDUK website has yet to fully act as a central location that publishes “all information related to projects under the scheme” (including mapping, public consultation, tenders, aid beneficiaries).
State aid SA.33671 (2012/N) – United Kingdom (PDF)