Brussels, 20 September 2010
Digital Agenda: Commission outlines measures to deliver fast and ultra-fast broadband in Europe
Three complementary measures to facilitate the roll out and take up of fast and ultra-fast broadband in the EU have been adopted today by the European Commission. This package comprises a Commission Recommendation on regulated access to Next Generation Access (NGA) networks that provides regulatory certainty to telecom operators, ensuring an appropriate balance between the need to encourage investment and the need to safeguard competition, a proposal for a Decision to establish a Radio Spectrum Policy Programme to ensure, inter alia, that spectrum is available for wireless broadband and a Broadband Communication outlining how best to encourage public and private investment in high and ultra-high speed networks. These 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 fast and ultra fast broadband by 2020 (see IP/10/581, MEMO/10/199 and MEMO/10/200). As outlined in the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth (see IP/10/225), installing broadband infrastructure in Europe is essential to create jobs and prosperity.
Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission for the Digital Agenda said "Fast broadband is digital oxygen, essential for Europe's prosperity and well-being. These measures will help to ensure that Europeans get the first-class internet they expect and deserve, so that they can access the content and services they want. "
The package adopted today 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 (2002/21/EC) 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. (See MEMO/10/425)
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. (See MEMO/10/427)
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.
Fast and ultra-fast broadband access could have a similar revolutionary impact on people's lives as railways did more than 100 years ago. High-speed connections make it easier to work from home and on the move. They make new interactive online services possible in different fields, including education and health (like remote diagnosis). They also help SMEs to lower their costs and become more competitive through access to "cloud" services as well as making possible a new era of digital, user-controlled and high definition video services.
For more information, see MEMO/10/426 and
EU Broadband Penetration Rates, January 2010
Source: EU Member States' telecoms regulators
% of households using a broadband connection
Source: Eurostat Community Survey on ICT usage by Households and Individuals (2009)
International fixed broadband penetration rates, July 2009
Deployment of optical fibre in the local loop in the EU, US, Japan and South Korea
Source: Commission, on the basis of Point Topic
Digital Subscriber Line national and rural coverage, December 2009
Source: Communication Services on the basis of Idate; Broadband developments in Europe", a study for the European Commission.