Commission acts to deliver fast and ultra-fast broadband in Europe

The European Commission has presented three complementary measures adopted in order to facilitate the roll out and take up of fast and ultra-fast broadband in the Union. The package adopted comprises a Commission Recommendation on regulated access to Next Generation Access (NGA), a proposal for a Decision to establish a Radio Spectrum Policy Programme and a Broadband Communication outlining how best to encourage public and private investment in high and ultra-high speed networks.

These measures adopted by the European Commission to deliver fast and ultra-fast broadband in Europe aim to help the EU realise the commitments set up in the Digital Agenda for Europe to give every European access to basic broadband by 2013 and fast and ultra fast broadband by 2020. As outlined in the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, installing broadband infrastructure in Europe is essential to create jobs and prosperity.

The package adopted comprises:

  • A 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 that requires national telecoms regulators to ensure an appropriate balance between the needs to encourage investment and to safeguard competition. This will provide 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. (See MEMO/10/424)
  • A Commission proposal for a Decision by the European Parliament and Council to establish a 5 year policy programme to promote efficient radio spectrum management and, in particular, ensuring 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). Efficient and competitive use of spectrum in the EU will also support innovation in other policy areas and sectors such as transport and the environment.
  • A Broadband Communication that sets out a coherent framework for meeting the Digital Agenda's broadband targets and, in particular, 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, it 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.

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. For instance, 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 Commission's measures aim to stimulate more public and private investment in fast and ultra-fast broadband networks, which in turn stands to boost demand for services delivered over broadband networks and thus trigger a virtuous circle of economic growth in the EU.

The Digital Agenda sets ambitious targets for broadband, ensuring by 2013 basic broadband coverage for all EU citizens and, by 2020, fast broadband coverage at 30 Megabits per second available to all EU citizens, with at least half European households subscribing to broadband access at 100 Megabits per second.