European Commission outlines measures to deliver fast and ultra-fast broadband in Europe

Currently Europe as a region has the highest average levels of broadband take-up worldwide (24.8%) but its networks need to be further developed and upgraded. Today only 1% of Europeans have a high-speed fibre internet connection directly to their homes, compared to 12% of Japanese and 15% of South Koreans. The European Commission thus adopted three complementary measures to facilitate the roll out and take up of fast and ultra-fast broadband in the European Union.

The three measures aim to help the EU realise the commitments in the Digital Agenda for Europe to give every European access to basic broadband by 2013 and by 2020 fast and ultra fast broadband at 30 Megabits per second, with at least half European households subscribing to broadband access at 100 Megabits per second.

The package adopted comprises of the Commission Recommendation on regulated access to Next Generation Access (NGA) networks, Proposal for a Decision to establish a Radio Spectrum Policy Programme and a Broadband Communication.

The Commission Recommendation on regulated access to Next Generation Access (NGA) networks sets out a common regulatory approach for access to new high-speed fibre networks. It provides regulatory certainty to telecom operators, as it requires national telecoms regulators to ensure an appropriate balance between the needs to encourage investment and to safeguard competition, thus providing increased regulatory clarity to all market players, which is necessary to stimulate investment in fast and ultra-fast broadband. The Telecommunications Framework Directive requires Member States to ensure that their regulatory authorities take the “utmost account” of the Commission Recommendation, justifying any departure from it.

The Proposal for a Decision to establish a Radio Spectrum Policy Programme will ensure, among other, that spectrum is available for wireless broadband. The  proposal of a 5 year policy programme of promoting efficient radio spectrum management would ensure that sufficient spectrum is made available by 2013 for wireless broadband, which will significantly contribute bringing fast broadband connections to people in remote areas and to make innovative services available across Europe.

The final document adopted is a Broadband Communication, seting out a coherent framework for meeting the Digital Agenda’s broadband targets. The Communication outlines how best to encourage public and private investment in fast and ultra-fast broadband networks. It calls on EU Member States to introduce operational broadband plans for high and ultra high speed networks with concrete implementing measures, and provides guidance on how to cut investment costs and indicates how public authorities may support broadband investment, including making better use EU funds. It also announces plans by the European Commission and the European Investment Bank to bring forward broadband finance instruments.

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