In September 2010, the European Commission adopted a Recommendation indicating to national telecoms regulators how they should regulate third-party competitive access to ultra-fast fibre networks (also known as 'next generation access' – NGA – networks).
What is the problem? Outdated networks are slowing Europe down
Today, internet access in the EU is mainly based on first generation broadband. Most people connect to the cyberspace over telephone and TV cable networks, both of which offer only limited speeds.
Europe is lagging behind other parts of the world (USA, Japan, Korea), where heavy investment is made to foster the deployment of Next Generation networks for high-speed web connections.
Why is EU action required? To offer the best to its citizens and businesses
Europeans should have the chance to use services on networks that are equal to or better than those available in other countries. Measures to achieve this include:
Non-discrimination and cost-orientation
The need for Commission guidance on the subjects has been highlighted by the significant differences in the application of non-discrimination and costing remedies across Member States. Such differences are likely to lead to the following problems:
- a lack of clarity/consistency of the obligations which render the regulation at a national level ineffective;
- a too lenient approach towards implementing non-discrimination obligations, not addressing the competitive concerns;
- significant differences in regulatory approaches across the EU negatively impacting the internal market, hampering investment, market integration and the development of pan-European operators.
- Measures adopted by Member States to facilitate broadband roll-out remain rather scarce and scattered (with different scope and obligations, deployed on a regional or even local basis).
- Coordination at EU level would ensure equal treatment of all operators seeking access to existing or future civil engineering infrastructure that might be used for electronic communications networks. This will in turn greatly reduce costs, increase operators' capacity and willingness to invest especially across borders), and competitiveness.
- No harmonisation measures at EU level could jeopardize the strategic objective of availability of high speed internet and of the internal market for electronic communications networks and services, as well as the policy goal to bring "every European digital".
What has the Commission done so far?
The Digital Agenda review proposed a package of regulatory measures on non-discrimination and wholesale pricing to promote investments in high-speed networks and strengthen competition across all networks.
On non-discrimination and cost-orientation:
- In July 2012 Vice-President Kroes announced a new policy package to create the legal predictability that investors are asking for against the current overall economic situation in Europe and the substantial roll-out costs of high speed internet.
- The Recommendation was adopted on 11 September 2013, after consultation with COCOM. Following adoption, the Commission is monitoring the implementation of the Recommendation in the different Member States through the Article 7 notification procedure where national regulators submit their draft measures to the Commission for scrutiny.
On cost cutting:
- Answered the call of the 2012 Spring Council for actions at EU level to achieve costs savings in the deployment of high-speed broadband networks as part of the efforts to complete the Digital Single Market by 2015. The Directive on measures to reduce the cost of deploying high-speed electronic communications networks has been adopted by the Council on 8 May 2014, after the vote by the European Parliament.
- The Commission launched public consultations on broadband state aid in April 2011 and June 2012, before adopting new Broadband State aid Guidelines in December 2012. These changes focus on technological neutrality, Ultra-fast broadband networks, Step change (aid only for substantial improvements over existing networks), Reinforcement of open access and transparency.
What will the Commission do next?
The Commission will implement the new guidelines in order to support broadband deployment where market failures exist without distorting competition and discouraging private investment.