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EU Sets Out New Proposals to Cut the Cost of Deploying Fibre Broadband

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013 (12:07 pm) - Score 716

The European Commission (EC) has today proposed a new Draft Regulation that could cut the cost of broadband related civil engineering tasks (e.g. digging up roads to lay new fibre optic cable) by 30% and thus save telecoms operators between £34 – £51 billion (€40 to €60 billion).

The draft proposals follow on from an earlier consultation in April 2012 and form part of Europe’s wider Digital Agenda, which aims to ensure that everybody in Europe has access to superfast broadband speeds of at least 30Mbps (Megabits), with 50% or more EU homes subscribing to speeds above 100Mbps, by 2020.

Neelie Kroes, EC Vice President, said:

In most places, today’s rules hurt Europe’s competitiveness. Everyone deserves fast broadband. I want to burn the red tape that is stopping us for getting there. The European Commission wants to make it quicker and cheaper to get that broadband.”

But the proposed changes, which include such aspects as “opening access to infrastructure on fair and reasonable terms” and “simplifying complex and time-consuming permit granting, especially for masts and antennas“, probably won’t have a huge impact in the United Kingdom where similar rules either already exist or are being debated as part of the related Growth and Infrastructure Bill (GIB). The EC’s proposed changes will still leave “organisational issues” to the discretion of Member States.

The EC wants to tackle four main problem areas:

• Ensuring that new or renovated buildings are high-speed-broadband-ready.

• Opening access to infrastructure on fair and reasonable terms and conditions, including price, to existing ducts, conduits, manholes, cabinets, poles, masts, antennae installations, towers and other supporting constructions.

• Ending insufficient coordination of civil works, by enabling any network operator to negotiate agreements with other infrastructure providers

• Simplifying complex and time-consuming permit granting, especially for masts and antennas, by granting or refusing permits within six months by default and allowing requests to be made through a single point of contact.

The effort is important because civil engineering work tends to account for the bulk of deployment costs (around 80%) and Europe believes that any savings achieved through this method could thus result in extra funding for reinvestment. Meanwhile critics don’t want to see operators being given too much power and fear that it could be used to damage the countryside.

On top of that Kroes claims that a 10% growth in high-speed broadband take-up can lead to an up to 1.5% in GDP growth. In reality this is difficult to gauge but few doubt the importance of a good broadband infrastructure.

The EC is expected to present all of its key broadband related proposals by the spring of 2013.

The Draft Regulation (Civil Engineering and Broadband)
http://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/en/..

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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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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9 Responses
  1. Chris Conder says:

    • Ensuring that new or renovated buildings are high-speed-broadband-ready. – This is plain common sense, and anyone building today who doesn’t make sure buildings are ducted or cabled up ready is mad.

    • Opening access to infrastructure on fair and reasonable terms and conditions, including price, to existing ducts, conduits, manholes, cabinets, poles, masts, antennae installations, towers and other supporting constructions. – This may work in some countries, but hasn’t in the UK due to the monopoly owning all the infrastructure and hiding behind ‘fixed costs’ – so they say they will let you use it then they tie you up in legal knots and charge you to clear the ducts before they lease them to you, which means nobody can really afford them. What should happen really is that in rural areas if they don’t want to provide the necessary upgrades to get fit for purpose connectivity is that funding should be diverted there for altnets and a compulsory purchase order put onto the poles so another company could use them properly for aerial fibre instead of obsolete copper. Its not often you can find ducts, conduits, manholes, cabinets, masts or towers in rural areas, all there is is poles or copper just under the sod in verges.

    • Ending insufficient coordination of civil works, by enabling any network operator to negotiate agreements with other infrastructure providers – This is one of the key things that has to happen, but it may be easier said than done. We recently got agreement to share a dig with the water board. Until their legal department got wind of it, and then it stopped. We recently identified a railway bridge to cross a river, which would have saved us a direct drill under the river. Nobody at the rail company can get us over that bridge. It would only take a couple of hours to run the duct over it. Hardly any trains use it. There is no earthly reason why they shouldn’t just say yes, but again, the legals, the HSE and all the suits hold more sway than plain common sense and helping others. If you can’t help a community coop its a bad job and a bad example of ‘big society’.

    • Simplifying complex and time-consuming permit granting, especially for masts and antennas, by granting or refusing permits within six months by default and allowing requests to be made through a single point of contact. – This is a no brainer, but getting a single point of contact will be very difficult, as many companies are like onions, with many layers and tears to get through before you can talk to anyone with the ability to make a decision.

    Nice to see that some of the recommendations made at last year’s digital agenda assembly are percolating through the system at last though.

    1. TheFacts says:

      How did the water board agree to share a dig without their legal people being involved?

    2. TheFacts says:

      ‘the monopoly owning all the infrastructure’. Do you tell your EU friends this?

      VM, C&W, Vitesse, Level 3 etc. have ducts across the UK.

    3. Bob says:

      @ TheFacts

      I don’t think anyone says that there is a monopoly in intercity ducts in the UK, but there is a very strong monopoly in access ducts in the UK. This is the section between the customer and the intercity duct network.

    4. TheFacts says:

      Monopoly or currently a single supplier in areas covering less than 50% of properties.

      So what price is acceptable to so-called altnets for PIA? No reply means no justification for the statement.

  2. TheFacts says:

    New building design has been covered for years, nothing new.

    http://www.openreach.co.uk/orpg/home/network/developingournetwork/documentationandinformation/buildersguide/buildersguide.do

    So who pays for clearing or providing new ducts?

  3. David Cullen says:

    Really grateful to you ‘TheFacts’ for pointing us at the specs for new building design. Shame they only show how to save OpenReach the 80% of build cost. I quote the first two lines:

    Introduction
    This guide is to help YOU build OUR infrastructure on YOUR new Site.

    Unless I’m mistaken and the costs of PIA on a new build duct and fibre network will be incredibly negligible- or perhaps even free where the developer has paid for it… ?
    Is there a similar OpenReach policy or standard guide on PIA for this infrastructure you could share with us?

    1. TheFacts says:

      Where do you get the 80% from? Makes sense to install services during the build, also applies to gas, water etc. which people want. Mentioning that would be boring…

      Or should services be installed after the site is complete?

  4. Chris Conder says:

    Sorry for delayed response. TheFacts we had water board coming through to farms in the area. We asked if they would like to share the digs. They seemed up for it. Talked to project managers etc and all was good. Then they passed it to their legal team and it all died a death. Full stop. NO.
    There doesn’t seem to be a way to do anything sensible in this country any more. Once the suits get in on the act all common sense goes out of the window. We now have two parallel lines running through the fields. Big society?
    Regarding PIA, according to openreach their prices are the cheapest in the EU. But you then read the small print… when you have done that you will realise no company can afford to duct share with them, and that is probably one of the reasons why fujitsu couldn’t compete at the tender stage to get the funding?

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