PositionNeelie Kroes

The European Commission has proposed reducing civil engineering costs in order to boost the deployment of high-speed telecommunications networks. A draft regulation, published on 26 March, would streamline the issuance of the permits required for the deployment of such infrastructures - a measure that is likely to weigh heavily on member states. The Commission also wants to include measures on the use of all types of "passive" physical infrastructure by telecoms network providers(1).

The regulation could save European companies 30% on costs linked to civil engineering, which could mean savings to the tune of 60 billion, says the EU executive.

The Commission has set the goal of providing access, by 2020, to high-speed networks of a minimum speed of 30 Mbps for all Europeans, and access to connections of more than 100 Mbps for 50% of households.

However, these goals (particularly the second) are a long way from being met. This would require almost 200 billion of investment, and the future Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) will hardly contribute to this. The CEF, which is provided for within the multiannual financial framework (MFF) for 2014-2020, will co-finance research infrastructures in transport, energy and telecommunications. The Commission has initially proposed allocating 9.2 billion to the telecoms sector, but the member states' leaders decided to drastically reduce this amount to 1 billion in a compromise on the MFF drawn up on 8 February.

Faced with this huge funding cut, the Commission knows that it can now only act at the regulatory level to encourage private investment.

"Currently, we are wasting billions of euro at the planning stage for high-speed internet," said Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes. Costs linked to civil engineering can indeed reach as much as 80% of total investment in telecommunications networks. "The Union should remedy this situation," said Kroes.

The draft regulation has been submitted to the European Parliament and Council, but it remains to be seen whether or not member states will accept this type of legislative act, which is directly applicable and therefore less flexible than a directive. The situation is uncertain, especially since several member states (Germany, Spain, France, Poland and the UK) have already taken initiatives in this area.


Firstly, the Commission recommends streamlining procedures for granting permits for civil engineering works across the Union...

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