New EU rules to cut red tape from broadband rollouts – move could save €60bn

26 Mar 2013

EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes

European Commission vice-president responsible for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes today revealed proposed new rules that will cut the cost of rolling out high-speed internet services by 30pc. The proposals may save companies up to €60bn.

Kroes said that civil engineering, such as digging up roads to lay down fibre, accounts for up to 80pc of the cost of deploying high-speed networks.

The proposals may save European telecoms companies and governments between €40bn and €60bn.

They include making sure there is open access to new infrastructure and ensuring that all new or renovated buildings are made broadband ready.

She said high-speed broadband is the backbone of the telecoms and wider digital single market.

However, its rollout is slowed down by a patchwork of rules and administrative practices at national and sub-national level.

“In most places, today’s rules hurt Europe’s competitiveness,” Kroes said.

The new draft regulation issued today builds on best practices that exist in Germany, France, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden and the UK. Note, Ireland was not on the list and it is widely acknowledged that red tape at a local political and national agency level are preventing swift and affordable deployment of this vital economic infrastructure.

Burning red tape at the parish pump

“Everyone deserves fast broadband,” Kroes said. “I want to burn the red tape that is stopping us from getting there.

“The European Commission wants to make it quicker and cheaper to get that broadband.”

Kroes noted that there is currently little transparency on existing physical infrastructure suitable for broadband rollout and no appropriate commonly used rules when deploying broadband across the EU.

In some cases in certain member states regulations actually discourage utility companies like gas and water from co-operating with telecoms companies.

The four main problem areas Kroes intends to tackle are:

  • Ensuring that new or renovated buildings are ready for high-speed broadband.
  • Opening access to infrastructure on fair and reasonable terms and conditions, including price, to existing ducts, conduits, manholes, cabinets, poles, masts, antennae installations, towers and other supporting constructions.
  • Ending insufficient co-ordination of civil works, by enabling any network operator to negotiate agreements with other infrastructure providers
  • Simplifying complex and time-consuming permit granting, especially for masts and antennas, by granting or refusing permits within six months by default and allowing requests to be made through a single point of contact.

Call for top down planning in Ireland

Telecoms industry group ALTO said that when it comes to Ireland pressing ahead with its own digital strategy, unless there is a move to top-down planning this country could be left far behind our European neighbours.

“In recent years, during the lifetime of the current Government, ALTO has seen and supported serious and high level industry efforts to shift current policy and try foster cross Government and departmental cooperation in support of the Digital Agenda in Ireland,” explained ALTO chairman Ronan Lupton.

“ALTO remains fully committed to supporting the Irish Next Generation Task Force reports and recommendations, but fears that a lack of planning and proper execution may leave Ireland far behind our EU partners.

“It is imperative that the work and efforts, often at CEO level, expended by ALTO member companies be utilised and fostered in order to enable the wider EU Digital Agenda and address the glaringly obvious digital divide that continues to dog our nations economic recovery and prosperity. We require as a matter of priority, that the State commence top down planning, and bottom up awareness relating to execution on this issue.

“ALTO calls on Minister Rabbitte, during the Irish Presidency of the EU, to bring forward his planned Digital Strategy announcement to synchronise with wider EU institutional planning,” Lupton said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years