My comments and summary of this document
The European Commission’s goal in this document is to provide 100% high-speed broadband service to every European citizen – broadband to he just like regular telephone or electricity service. They are to put EUR 1.02bn to European Agricultural Fund For Rural Development with part of this money for equipping rural areas with high-speed broadband “hot and cold running Internet”. As well, member countries are pitching money towards deploying very high speed Internet services (fibre-optic Internet) into populated areas.
The activities covered in the guidelines may typically be equipment and backhaul “pipeline” to provide broadband Internet to remote population centres in the case of basic broadband provision or equipment and works to provide next-generation broadband to areas that aren’t worth it due to sparse population or poorer neighbourhoods that are less likely to pay for the service.
What to be done to qualify for State aid
New basic-broadband services
- Proper geographical analysis of Internet service in all areas to identify white and grey areas
- Open tender process for providing the State-underpinned services or infrastructure
- Most economically advantageous offer (best value for money) to be preferred for providing the service
- Technology-neutral service so that a provider can use their choice of wireline, terrestrial wireless, satellite wireless or mobile wireless technologies or provide a mix of the technologies
- Use of existing infrastructure (ducts, poles, black fibre, etc) preferred without favouring existing incumbent operators.
- Wholesale access to be preferred so that fair and equitable retail Internet access can be provided to customers from multiple providers
- Prices to be benchmarked to assess real competitiveness
- Support for a claw-back mechanism if there is over-compensation
New next-generation broadband services
Preference to pure competition such as access to ducts, black fibre or bitstream by competing operators; or support for differing topologies like point-to-point or point-to-multipoint
This could include providing for the use of trenches caused by renovation works for existing services like electricity, gas or water.
What hasn’t been covered
One major gap that exists in these guidelines, especially as far as unbundled services or next-generation broadband services is concerned is privately-owned multi-tenancy developments like shopping centres or blocks of flats.
In these places, a property owner or management committee could permit only a particular operator to lay infrastructure in their building and prohibit competing providers from laying their infrastructure in the same building. There isn’t provision for measures that preclude this kind of behaviour that denies tenants or unit owners access to infrastructurally-competitive Internet service.
This document should be looked at and considered by governments and telecommunications regulators when they prepare frameworks for next-generation telecommunications and Internet services.