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European Commission - Press release
State aid: Commission clears Latvian support scheme for high speed broadband networks
Brussels, 9 November 2011 - The European Commission has approved under EU state aid rules a Latvian support scheme worth LVL 71.5 million (€101.71 million) for the deployment of very high speed broadband networks in Latvia. Consumers and businesses will benefit from speeds of above 30 and up to 100 megabits per second for the use of enhanced internet services. The scheme will also further bridge the digital divide between rural and urban areas.
Commission Vice-President Joaquín Almunia, in charge of competition policy, said: "Latvia's broadband support scheme meets the Commission's Digital Agenda objectives of bringing very high speed broadband to all European citizens. The scheme contains sufficient safeguards to limit competition distortions and supports only networks which are open to all users on a non-discriminatory basis. This will stimulate competition between network infrastructures and services."
In September 2011, Latvia notified a nationwide support measure for the construction of fibre-based, very high speed broadband networks (so-called next generation access networks, NGA) to the Commission.
The framework ensures that support will be granted only in areas in which no commercial NGA network rollout is foreseen in the near future, to avoid the crowding out of private investments.
Access to the subsidised infrastructure will be carried out on a non-discriminatory basis and at adequate prices. This will be controlled by the national telecommunications regulator SPRK. The project is part of Latvia's Operational Programme "Infrastructure and Services " 2007-2013.
The Latvian support scheme for high-speed broadband networks was assessed under the EU guidelines on state aid for broadband, which set out in detail the Commission's criteria for assessing national support measures in this field (see
The Europe 2020 Strategy underlines the importance of broadband deployment to promote social inclusion and competitiveness in the EU. The Digital Agenda is part of the Strategy which seeks to ensure that, by 2020, (i) all Europeans have access to internet speeds of above 30 Mbps and (ii) 50% or more of European households subscribe to internet connections above 100 Mbps (see Digital Agenda webpage, IP/10/581, MEMO/10/199, MEMO/10/200).
These targets can only be reached if EU and public funds complement private investments to extend current generation broadband and very high speed broadband coverage to areas where market operators are unlikely to invest on commercial terms in the near future. Adequate and affordable broadband services can bring great economic and social benefits for people living and working in such areas. Public support is often also needed to ensure a universal coverage of broadband infrastructures and so avoiding a digital divide between urban and rural or remote areas.
The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.33324 in the State Aid Register on the DG Competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of state aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the State Aid Weekly e-News.