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Europe Switches Focus from Basic to Ultrafast Broadband Funding

Saturday, June 2nd, 2012 (7:43 am) - Score 1,295

The European Commission (EC) has launched a new consultation on EU state aid rules for the public funding of broadband networks, which appears to mark a shift in focus away from the “good progress” of connecting all citizens to basic broadband and more towards facilitating the roll-out of “ultra-fast” networks (100Mbps+) “under certain conditions“.

Europe’s Digital Agenda strategy effectively aims to make “basic” broadband services available to all Europeans by 2013 and seeks to ensure that, by 2020, everybody has access to internet download speeds 30Mbps+ and 50% or more of European households subscribe to 100Mbps+. This also applies to the UK.

Crucially the EC wants public funding for passive infrastructure to be available indiscriminately for all ISPs who intend to enter the market. In the UK there has been significant criticism of the Broadband Deliver UK (BDUK) office for making it virtually impossible for smaller ISPs to compete, which has left BT and Fujitsu as the only bidders.

Joaquín Almunia, Commission Vice President for Competition Policy, said:

State aid control should support the Digital Agenda targets while maintaining incentives for commercial investments. We need a dynamic framework for the application of EU state aid rules in this strategic sector that fosters investments. This is all the more important in the present economic circumstances as new investments and more competition can contribute to growth and employment.”

Draft Guideline Changes for EU State Aid on Broadband Networks

* Clarify and simplify the existing rules, for example by easing some conditions for investments in rural areas.

* Facilitate the roll out of fast networks. Therefore the revised Guidelines propose to include the possibility of supporting ultra-fast broadband networks (with speeds above 100 mbps) under certain conditions.

* Increase transparency by asking Member States to publish all information on broadband schemes receiving state support on a central webpage or reducing administrative burden for smaller projects.

* Focus investments on infrastructure elements that are not directly related to the transmission of services, such as ducts or dark fibre (passive infrastructure).

The Commission aims to adopt the new Broadband Guidelines in December 2012, although it will come too late to have any real impact upon UK policy until after 2015. That’s because funding allocations and plans have already been decided for most of the country. But the UK strategy will still leave around 10% of the country un-served by superfast broadband (25-30Mbps+) come 2015 and a plan for the 2015-2020 period has yet to be established.

Revision of the Guidelines on public funding to broadband networks

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48 Responses
  1. Chris Conder says:

    Good news, but like you say, too late for the UK’s digital switchover funding where councils are handing it over to BT for cabinets because only the incumbent could compete in the tender process.
    Hopefully some help for Altnets will come from Europe and stimulate some competition and innovation which is what every country needs. Let us hope we can catch up and not be left as a third world nation on copper, which only serves a portion of the population with anything remotely resembling high speed.

    1. FibreFred says:

      A good portion though? And that portion will be able to have 100Mbps and beyond in those areas should they choose from 2013

      The UK started their fibre rollout late but are on par with most of Europe in terms of progress despite starting some 4yrs after our neighbours

    2. DTMark says:

      Until the funding process changes from spending on tech (e.g. giving money to a phone company to reinvent itself as a modern telecommunications company) to spending on ducting specifically (e.g. the State playing the role of facilitator, not market maker or maniupulator), we’re going to continue to have this problem.

      Apart from in a very small number of isolated cases (in both senses) it really shouldn’t be necessary to directly hand over any taxpayer’s money to any private ISPs/telcos to get the best broadband network in Europe, indeed, doing so is likely to guarantee the opposite.

    3. FibreFred says:


      lol, I know your know fan of BT but a phone company re-inventing themselves? They’ve not been “just” a phone company for many many many years. If BDUK money isn’t going to be given to private telco’s then what, those people just go without?

    4. DTMark says:

      Welwyn Garden City – supplied phone services, no broadband (line too long for ADSL)
      Blackpool – supplied phone services, no broadband (line too long for ADSL)
      Here – supplied phone services, no broadband (line too poor quality, only 2 meg ADSL available)
      Parents – might be able to supply 256kbps (line too long)

      It’s a phone company with a sudden interest in broadband now the begging bowl is going around and because even tech like 4G will easily surpass BT’s ADSL services rendering huge numbers of landline circuits redundant.

      BT are terrified of going anywhere near the “D-sides” because in many cases, that’s the same as building a new roadside ducting infrastructure.

      I suggest we build than new roadside ducting infrastructure.

    5. New_Londoner says:

      However if we use the ITU’s definition of broadband rather than your own personal one then you do in fact have broadband with your 2Mb ADSL service, just saying

    6. FibreFred says:

      A sudden interest in broadband, they start rolling out ADSL 12yrs ago! Which certainly is broadband

      And narrowband (ISDN) before that

  2. Glenn Peacey says:

    If this becomes a major sticking point for State Aid clearance then this could mean a shakeup of the BDUK procurement process. The county plans only exist as plans, they do not specify who the supplier should be or what technology should be used and do not necessarily commit to following a specific framework either. Therefore although the funding allocations have been set and a basic ones established there is nothing to stop the procurement process from changing.

    1. DTMark says:


      Looking at Hampshire today to see how many had registered for superfast broadband, unsurprisingly since Hants is 85% rural by geography the maps are just full of endless little blobs of registrations all over the place.

      In terms of technology, how has East Hants sought to achieve the “90% can get superfast broadband @ 25Mbps or better” on a case by case basis?

      The BT FTTC option suffices as long as the cabinet is very near the property and the phone line is good quality both of which are a bit of an ask, but assuming that technology could supply superfast broadband to say half the population, how does East Hants, as a body, go about fulfilling the needs of the other half with the market as it is (immature?)

    2. New_Londoner says:

      Thankfully the problem of what tech to use to deliver the level of service specified by the county council will be down to the bidders when they respond to the tender.

  3. Deduction says:

    Agree with Chris and the end of the story. European Commission is too late, EU funding has already been wasted in this country and others on half baked measures like FTTC which will NEVER deliver 100Mbps and higher to EVERYONE that has it available. FTTC is not and never will be a fixed or consistent speed offering.

    If you look at things as they stand BT and FTTC with regards to EU funding should had not got any. Because FTTC in the UK in NO way shape or form guarantees 25-30Mbps. The minimum BT guarantee from it is 15Mbps and in some cases only 5Mbps. Given that, new rules or not this country already fails at Europe’s Digital Agenda.

    1. New_Londoner says:

      Suggest you look at what bandwidth is guaranteed on most FTTP networks, as it makes interesting reading. For example, IIRC B4RN has around 15Mb per user, based on target numbers and the published backhaul spec. Despite your cynicism, Ofcom’s stats showed average speeds of > 32Mb on FTTC, and that was before the Profile 17a upgrade.

      Having high sync speed is irrelevant if the throughput is throttled by the backhaul, or by local congestion – just ask cable customers!

    2. Is it too late? says:

      You seem to be concentrating on technology. The interesting point about this development is the conditions that the EU is placing on State Aid clearance. There is nothing in the LBPs that defines technology. The issue with the BDUK framework is the restriction it has placed on alt net operators taking part. Only a few counties have actually started their procurement and fewer still completed it and all of them are waiting for state aid clearance.

      If the EU decide that the restrictive nature of the procurement process does not meet their requirements (and therefore withhold State Aid clearance) then the procurements will have to be undertaken again, and possibly the framework dismantled, allowing alternative network operators to bid for funding.

    3. Deduction says:

      Considering BT are duplicating 90% of B4RNs footprint that argument is laughable.

      Which Ofcom stats? Ones ive seen show the Average speed for BT products remains well below even 10Mb.

      I agree and it seems looking at BT community care forums the throughput on FTTC isnt all its cracked up to be.

    4. Somerset says:

      Please give a link to the stats you have seen for FTTC.

    5. Tom says:

      No complaints here with FTTC (BT Retail) speeds. No complaints from any of my customers or friends who have also made the leap to FTTC products with BT, Plusnet or TalkTalk!

      The only complaints I have heard first hand (ie, from friends or customers… not BTs support forums) is Sky FTTC customers who seem to suffer speed issues even though their sync is high.

      I don’t think anything will ever please you Deduction. Lower your expectations (and stop looking through those “anti-rose tinted”? glasses.).

    6. Deduction says:

      @Somerset, i didnt give any stats for FTTC, apart from the actual guidelines laid done for the product.

  4. New_Londoner says:

    Suggest you look at the Ofcom stats specifically for FTTC rather than for the whole broadband portfolio.

    1. Deduction says:

      There is no ofcom data just for FTTC speeds, the only data Ofcom has produced that looks at ONLY FTTC is data taken from Samknows.
      Link to this OFCOM NOT Samknows data if you know better.

    2. FibreFred says:

      Ofcom uses Samknows as a source

    3. Deduction says:

      Unreliable data then seeing as its only based on a few thousand users (probably more like few hundred) at best.

    4. Tom says:

      Deduction, you could just backup your quotes with research / facts and their sources. It took me minutes to find:
      “findings from data collected during November 2011, during which 572 million test results were collected from a panel of 1,703 UK residential broadband users.”

      Source: http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/research/broadband-research/Fixed_bb_speeds_Nov_2011.pdf

      Saves other people time and stops the backwards / forwards “they said”.. “no they said..” arguments.

    5. New_Londoner says:

      Thanks Tom, as it says in the intro, it’s Ofcom’s research using data from its research partner SamKnows Limited. Hopefully Deduction will note the logo on the front of the report is in fact that of Ofcom, in case there is still any confusion about the source of the report.

    6. Deduction says:

      In that case my survey says friend only gets 20Mb on infinity so thats the average everyone can expect from my survey sample of one.

  5. Deduction says:

    LMFAO……… Talk about not reading…….

    ME QUOTE “Unreliable data then seeing as its only based on a few THOUSAND USERS (probably more like few hundred) at best.”

    (Note what ihave capitalised for you and your multi IDs)

    “results were collected from a panel of 1,703 UK residential broadband users”



    1. Tom says:

      I know it backed up your comment.. was merely pointing to the evidence rather than leaving it open for more pointless arguments.

      I don’t know if you were implying that I am the “multi-id” user.. if it was aimed at me then it just shows how paranoid and delusional you are.

  6. New_Londoner says:

    Suggest you read up on statistics, particularly the bit about significance. A sample size of ~1000 is usually used by research companies to represent the UK population, why would a sample size of 1,703 not be sufficient to determine performance of broadband to premises – ie less than a third the size of the UK population?

    Or have all the market research companies overlooked omething that only you know?

    1. Deduction says:

      LOL if you want to agree with 1000 people in anything and take for gospel 1000 people equals the average millions get or are due to get, feel free, go right ahead.

      I supposed you also believe if i did a survey asking 1000 people what colour their eyes are and if the majority of that 1000 answered green, that would equate to that being the most common eye colour.

      Actually ill make it less simply and survey one person, that being myself a single question.

      Question: Is New_Londoner stupid?
      Answer: YES

      Must be true as a minority (IE ME) says so.

    2. New_Londoner says:

      Good to know that you’re better informed about statistics than the professionals working for market research companies. Amazing!

    3. Deduction says:

      You dont need to be informed to know only a thousand odd testing a product which 10’s of thousands actually have in no way gives an average of how that product performs. An idiot even knows that.

    4. New_Londoner says:

      Like I said, good to know that you’re better informed about statistics than the professionals working for market research companies. I think you should arrange to brief them on your findings as a matter of urgency as they’ve all missed this simple insight over the years.

    5. Deduction says:

      Samknows or ofcom are a market research company? I thought the results collated from that site were nothing more than users running tests? Which market research firm are you on about?

    6. New_Londoner says:

      You’ve questioned the basic approach taken by all market research companies when stating:

      “You dont need to be informed to know only a thousand odd testing a product which 10′s of thousands actually have in no way gives an average of how that product performs. An idiot even knows that”.

      You are implying that you need a sample size of > 10% of a total population in order to reach a statistically significant conclusion about the wider population. To adapt your words, only an idiot would think that.

    7. Deduction says:

      What the hell are you nonsensically babbling on about now? I implied no such thing anywhere. 1000 odd people testing their internet no matter who the service is from in no way shape or form gives a clear indication of average speeds.

      You may as well just ask a single individual to test and take that as an average. Id argue more with you but your utter stupidity to not even comprehend what the word average means is pointless….. Approx 550,000 have BT infinity (that doesnt include FTTC from other ISPs) and you think that testing around 1000 of those people gives an indicative average or even remote guideline on the speeds the other 549,000 get???????? I suggest you either seek night classes in maths or double whatever meds it is you are on.

    8. Somerset says:

      Explanation starts here – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sample_size_determination

      Do you agree?

    9. Deduction says:

      NO like you im going to decide to disregard wikipedia links as it suits.

    10. Somerset says:

      Does sampling distribution and standard deviation mean anything to you? The basis for understanding why a relatively small sample is all that is needed.

    11. Deduction says:

      My survey says friend only gets 20Mb on infinity so thats the average everyone can expect from my survey sample of one.

    12. New_Londoner says:

      All your comments demonstrate is your own total ignorance of statistics. By all means keep commenting but all your doing is showing you understand nothing about this, rather like your equally uninformed posts on street works.

    13. Deduction says:

      Its not me that was insisting a small sample group equates to an average. I thought you would agree as i know someone that gets 20Mb that must be the average.

  7. New_Londoner says:

    PS your multi-I’d delusion is getting boring, usually a sign of you running out of anything worthwhile to say, is often followed by abuse.

    1. Deduction says:

      Its highly funny whenever anyone agrees with you in anything.

      Especially when as above it involves them and yourself not even reading what was said previously. Disagreeing with what i stated even when what you state in a follow up confirms what i stated.

      The posts are never more than a couple of hours apart also.

      That if anything is real bordom and certainly not from myself. Running out of things to say? Nah thats not me neither, i dont need other nicks to disagree with you either, or point out where you arguments fail!

    2. Tom says:

      “The posts are never more than a couple of hours apart also.”
      Fancy that, people using the internet at similar times to other users :O

    3. Deduction says:

      Funnier you bothered to wait this time after i pointed it out.

  8. Tom says:

    Funnier that you still think you are being trolled by a multi-id single user.
    But then it’s impossible to reason with someone who will only accept their view as gospel.

    1. Deduction says:

      “it’s impossible to reason with someone who will only accept their view as gospel”

      Ironic from a BE defender!

  9. Rob Turner says:

    @ Tom

    Don`t worry Tom, Deduction accused me of being a fake ID a few months ago also, I think anyone who has an opinion other than his own seem to get the same accusation thrown at them, I am sure regular readers can draw there own conclusions!!!

    1. Deduction says:

      Really? On what news item was that?

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