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Europe Softens State Aid Rules for Faster Broadband Deployments

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014 (8:29 am) - Score 837

As expected the European Commission (EC) has adopted a revised General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER) for the use of state aid (tax payers money) with regards to rolling out faster Next Generation Access (NGA) broadband networks, which among other things means that broadband funding under €70m (£57m) doesn’t have to be notified or approved by the EC.

The adjustment, which will support the recent changes to make building related broadband networks both cheaper and faster (here), should make it easier for larger state aid based deployments to secure funding. Last year several Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) schemes were delayed for 3-6 months because they crossed the previous threshold and thus required direct EC approval (e.g. Cumbria’s delay).

Under the revised GBER, schemes subject to evaluation can be implemented without prior notification to the EC. However, for such schemes the exemption will be limited to an initial period of six months following their entry into force. The Commission may extend this period upon approval of an evaluation plan that the Member State should notify not later than 20 working days after the entry into force of the scheme.

EC Statement

Aid for broadband infrastructure:

The GBER exempts aid to “white” and “white NGA” areas (i.e. areas where no relevant broadband operator exists or is likely to invest in the next three years), but excludes block exemption for aid to “grey” or “grey NGA areas”, where potential competition concerns need to be analysed very carefully. The requirements of an open tender for selecting the beneficiaries of aid, of fair and non-discriminatory wholesale access to the supported network and of full and effective unbundling ensure maximum competitive benefits. This category of aid should be seen in connection with the Commission’s broadband guidelines (see IP/12/1424).

But none of these changes will have a huge impact upon the roll-out in the United Kingdom, with related BDUK projects having already cleared this hurdle. Similarly the UK has already introduced many of the same measures to cut deployment costs through its Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013.

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Mark Jackson
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.
Leave a Comment
2 Responses
  1. Avatar GeoTel

    Cheaper and faster for broadband deployments sounds like a good thing!

  2. Too little too late from the EU. People want an opportunity of superfast now, they do not care for policies from those who no doubt have superfast coming out of their ears. Grey areas suffer just as much neglect as white areas particularly with regard to missed cabinets, or are just too far away and the network provider will not move them to a closer cabinet (if there is one).

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