The European Commission has approved, under EU State aid rules, €300 million of public support for Greece's Ultrafast Broadband Infrastructure Scheme. The scheme will bring ultrafast broadband services to customers in areas with insufficient connectivity in Greece.
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy said: “Access to high-performance internet connectivity is crucial for European citizens, for society and the economy. With this decision, the Commission endorses the use of EU funds for the development of ultrafast internet in areas of Greece where private investment is insufficient. This is an important step for competitiveness and innovation in Greece as well as for social and territorial cohesion, enabling Greek households and businesses to benefit fully from the Digital Single Market.”
The Greek Ultrafast Broadband Scheme has an indicative budget of €300 million and is financed through the European Regional Development Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and private investments.
The scheme aims to advance the deployment of broadband infrastructure capable of delivering download speeds of at least 100 Megabits per second (Mbps), upgradable to 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps), to households, companies and public institutions.
The scheme targets areas where no fast broadband infrastructure offering at least 30 Mbps is currently in place, and where no private investor has shown any interest to invest commercially in the near future.
The aid will be awarded by way of an open, transparent and non-discriminatory selection procedure, with all technologies being able to compete.The subsidised network will offer full access to all operators on a non-discriminatory basis, while the access prices will be under the control of the Greek telecommunications regulator, Hellenic Telecommunications and Post Commission (EETT).The measure will therefore incentivise private investments in further connectivity, facilitate competition and encourage investments in the provision of ultrafast internet access to households and businesses in the target areas.
The Commission assessed the measure under EU State aid rules, in particular its 2013 Broadband Guidelines. The Commission concluded that the scheme's positive effects on competition in the Greek broadband market outweigh potential negative effects brought about by the public intervention.
On this basis, the Commission approved the measure under EU State aid rules. The scheme will contribute to the EU strategic objectives set out in the Digital Agenda for Europe and in the Communication "Towards a European Gigabit Society".
Broadband connectivity is of strategic importance for European growth and innovation in all sectors of the economy, as well as for social and territorial cohesion. The Digital Agenda for Europe acknowledges the socio-economic benefits of broadband and sets targets for broadband development in Europe, including that 50% or more of European households should subscribe to internet connections above 100 Mbps.
The Digital Agenda for Europe was complemented in 2016 by the Gigabit Communication, which defines connectivity objectives to be achieved by 2025,where the development of very high capacity networks able to provide download speeds of at least 100 Mbps, upgradeable to 1 Gbps, should enable the widespread use of products, services and applications in the Digital Single Market.
According to the Digital Economy and Society Index 2019 (DESI 2019), Greece ranks 26th amongst EU countries in fast broadband coverage per household. In Greece, only 66% of homes have access to fast internet of above 30 Mbps, far below the EU coverage of 83%, and less than 1% have access to ultrafast broadband of at least 100 Mbps.
The 2013 Broadband Guidelines allow for public interventions where private initiatives are not sufficient, while protecting private investment and competition as a key driver for investment, better prices and quality of services for consumers and businesses.
The non-confidential version of the current decision will be made available under the case number SA.53135 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.