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Brussels, 11th July 2007

State aid: Commission approves public funding of €2 million for high-speed network in France

Under the Community state aid rules the Commission has approved the funding by Sicoval (an association of municipalities on the south-east side of Toulouse) of a very high-speed telecommunications network exclusively serving businesses and public organisations on its territory.

Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: "I am delighted to be able to give the go-ahead to a project which provides very high-speed access for SMEs on affordable terms, while at the same time complying with the rules on state aid."

The Sicoval aid is intended to promote the establishment of a fibre-optic infrastructure, to be operated by a delegated company, which will provide wholesale offers (fibre optic or bandwidth) to telecoms operators wanting to propose retail offers to businesses and public organisations in Sicoval. The network has been designed in such a way to allow optimal access to all interested operators, under conditions and rates that are transparent and non-discriminatory. The network will provide a direct fibre-optic connection to all participants, giving them access to symmetrical DSL of at least 10 Mb/sec.

The construction and operation of the network has been delegated to the consortium Marais Contracting – Vinci – Alcatel, which was selected by invitation to tender and will receive aid of €2 million.

The scheme was launched when it was found that the existing high-speed provision in the area was either too expensive for the companies concerned, most of which are SMEs, or did not meet their requirements. The Commission thus concluded that the scheme could be approved under Article 87(3)(c) of the EC Treaty (aid to facilitate the development of certain economic activities) even in a region where some high-speed services are already being provided.

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