--- Posted by Kristiina Pietikainen, Policy Officer DG INFSO
Almost a hundred people –members of the parliament, industry, regions, municipalities and cooperatives lead by Minister of Communications, Krista Kiuru, – gathered together on 11th October in Helsinki to review the ambitious Finnish BB-strategy.
The half a day seminar focused on lessons learned and experienced gathered so far from the ongoing Broadband projects. The points raised were accurate and constructive and deserve serious consideration not only when updating the Finnish strategy but also in the framework of the European BB policy. There is a strong spirit pushing the broadband forward in Finland. But no doubt there are also problems.
Neither in Finland nor elsewhere has the enthusiasm of the operators to participate to the rural Broadband projects been very great. Therefore minister Kiuru in her opening speech emphasised strongly the responsibility of the operators to actively contribute to the rural broadband deployment. She stated that the current attitude of the operators is simply not acceptable and pointed out that the state has already actively supported the operator's businesses; for instance, by allocating them valuable spectrum. So it is now time to give some favours back.As for lessons learned from the Broadband projects in general in Finland at least the following should be noted:
- The budget, insufficient in general, is also unevenly spent. In areas where there are ongoing and starting projects more money is needed. On the areas, where no projects have started, money allocated stands idle. Therefore the question is: should the allocation of money be renewed so that instead of regional quotas the allocation could be based on the number of projects started or starting.
- There is clearly competition between fixed and wireless technologies. Where wireless is actively offered the demand of fiber is low – too low to dig.
- There is a clear 2000 € "pain-threshold" to how much people are willing to invest themselves (in Finland the state subsidies the provision of fiber max. 2 km from home the last mile being paid by everyone's own expenses)
- The Brodband projects should be driven by real customer demand and the service offer should back up the demand of connections. No services – no demand. No demand – no offers.
- A wider approach which takes also into account the skills and capabilities of all population groups is needed. Awareness raising, marketing and meeting the people is important, since providing BB to rural areas is a grass-root activity.
- Less bureaucracy and more speed are necessary in all phases of the projects.
So, the seminar was a kick-off to the revision of the Finnish Broadband strategy. From the European perspective it gives an interesting example to countries with similar circumstances. But of course none of the EU 27 countries are exactly the same. Therefore common denominators are needed. These are at least light bureaucracy, clearer guidelines, flexible financial instruments and back-up in establishing e-services.