The European Commission set up a Support Facility for the Broadband Competence Offices (BCOs). The Brussels-based facility is starting its operations in January 2017 and will help BCOs to share their experiences in a European network. Read the interview with Jan Dröge from Schuman Associates, who is starting up the support facility.

What is the Support Facility?

The Support Facility is a European Commission funded Project, to provide information and guidance to the national and regional Broadband Competence Offices (BCOs).The Support Facility will assist those countries where BCOs have not yet been established in doing so. It will also promote best practices, share knowledge and experience on broadband investments. Our focus will be on rural areas where connectivity challenges are highest.

The overall objective is of course to deliver on the EU Digital Agenda targets on broadband rollout, notably a universal coverage of 30 Mbps, and 50% of users connect at 100 Mbps.

Our offices are based in the EU quarter of Brussels and a high-expertise team has already started working closely with DG AGRI, DG CONNECT and DG REGIO, in order to deliver know-how to key stakeholders, both public and private, for the implementation of EU funded broadband projects.

What is the Support’s Facility basic aim?

Our main aim is to ensure that the EUR 6 billion allocated through the structural and investment funds have the highest possible impact and contribute to achieving the 2020 objectives. In the 2007-2013 programming period’s some of the funds to broadband were not used. The main hurdles were around state aid, procurement, project planning and technology choices. The aim of the Support Facility will be to work with national stakeholders overcome these hurdles.

The Commission has therefore launched the idea of a Broadband Competence Offices network across the EU to share experiences and best practices on the issues above. Our Support Facility will act as facilitator to this network.

What is your scheme for the upcoming months?

A lot of work has already been done. We will collect best practices and experiences and make this available to the BCOs.

In some areas, further support might be needed. Therefore, the Support Facility will set up thematic groups that address specific challenges faced by project promoters, and other stakeholders.

Finally we will provide some training on targeted issues where required, such as state aid and  technology choice.