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Europe Switches Focus from Basic to Ultrafast Broadband Funding

Saturday, Jun 2nd, 2012 (7:43 am) - Score 1,319

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

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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