The European Commission have today announced a new digital agenda which will see fast and ultra-fast broadband delivered across Europe. The new measures are looking to set ambitious targets for broadband penetration, ensuring that all EU citizens can get access to basic broadband by 2013 and that by 2020, all EU citizens have access to fast broadband of at least 30Mbps and 50% or more of European households have access to broadband at speeds above 100Mbps.
The proposals also look at forming a common regulatory approach to high speed fibre networks across Europe and guides member countries on the best way to encourage both public and private investment in broadband.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.Proposals set out by European Commission today
The Commission have usefully put in some definitions to broadband speeds, defining "fast" as 30Mbps or above and "ultra-fast" as 100Mbps or above. This will hopefully help create some coherence across countries and the broadband industry to adopt a more standardised definition of services. Currently different terms such as "high-speed", "super-fast", "ultra-fast" and "next generation" are often used to mean effectively the same thing. They did not however detail how fast 'basic broadband' which should be universally available by 2013 should be.
"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."Neelie Kroes, (Vice President) European Commission
Comparing these broadband policies with those here in the UK, currently the government have only committed to providing universal 2Mbps broadband by 2015, and bringing this forward to 2013 could throw a spanner in the works.