More flexibility for state aid for broadband in rural zones, and stricter conditions in areas where competition is intense and investment is more profitable - these are some of the key principles of the revised guidelines for state aid in the broadband sector, adopted by the European Commission on 19 December. The new rules update those from 2009, and take into account technological developments and the promotion of objectives under the EU's Digital Agenda, which aims to equip half of all European households with high-speed internet connections (more than 100 Mbps) by 2020, as well as incorporating the points of view of stakeholders, who have been widely consulted. This initiative also falls within the context of the modernisation of EU rules on state aid, a process that was begun last May, and also aims to simplify rules in order to speed up decision making.

"These new rules will allow for well-designed public interventions targeted at market failures and ensure open access to state-funded infrastructure," said Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia.

The principle remains the same: it is better to limit the risk created by public intervention (financial or otherwise) and avoid the use of aid in place of private investment, distort incentives to develop commercial investment, and eventually distort competition on the internal market. Regarding public funding of networks in urban zones, where there are private operators ( grey' or black' areas), which are definitely contributing to the Digital Agenda's goals, the Commission has reaffirmed its intention to subject these to very strict conditions in order that they should promote competition.


The guidelines emphasise that public authorities may qualify the deployment of a high-speed network (not the provision of retail communication services) as being a service of general economic interest (SGEI), and that compensation for such a service would be compatible if it can be shown that private investors cannot provide adequate...

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