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UK Opposes EU Measures for Cutting Broadband Deployment Costs

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013 (10:57 am) - Score 736

The House of Commons has advised the President of the Council of the European Union that it objects to the European Commission’s proposals to cut the cost of broadband related civil engineering tasks (e.g. digging up roads to lay new fibre optic cable) because the measures “do not comply” with the principle of subsidiarity.

It’s been estimated that the Draft Regulation (here), which was set out in March 2013 and is due to be presented alongside other related changes this spring, could help to cut the costs of deploying new broadband infrastructure by 20-30% (up to EUR 63 Billion) come 2020.

However 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“, aren’t likely to have a huge impact on the United Kingdom where a similar Growth and Infrastructure Act was recently passed (additional rules about mast placement are being debated separately).

By contrast the principle of subsidiarity is said to be “fundamental to the functioning of the EU” (established in Article 5(3) of the Treaty on European Union) because it determines when the EU is “competent to legislate, and contributes to decisions being taken as closely as possible to the citizen“. In other words the EU may only intervene if it is able to “act more effectively than Member States“, which is relevant to the UK where similar rules already exist and the EU’s proposals might thus risk additional delay.

According to the House of Commons Letter (PDF), the UK considers that the EC’s proposals have failed in a number of areas that would put them in conflict with the above principal. In particular it notes that the option of the proposals themselves have not received enough debate, appear to be based on questionable assumptions about cost savings and that such work could be conducted more effectively at the level of individual member states.

However it also questions whether it is “appropriate” for the EU to use a “legal instrument” to enforce a “prescriptive approach to broadband deployment“. By comparison the UK’s GIA represents an arguably softer approach. The House of Common’s concludes, if the EU persists with its current EU-level approach, that any changes should be modified and “contained in a Directive rather than a Regulation“.

Ultimately Europe’s wider Digital Agenda aims to ensure that everybody in Europe has access to superfast broadband speeds of at least 30Mbps (with 50% or more homes subscribing to speeds above 100Mbps) by 2020 and the new measures are designed to support that. By comparison the UK seeks to make superfast broadband (25-30Mbps+) available to 90% of people in the UK by the end of 2015 and we’re still waiting to see a clear post-2015 strategy. Credits to Thinkbroadband for spotting the letter.

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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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