Today the European Commission launches its “Connected Communities” initiative – an umbrella for several systems designed to connect towns, cities, local broadband partnerships and operators to the advice they need to access finance and develop tailored business models for bringing fast broadband to their community.
All parties working at a local, regional and national level are invited to submit their concepts and plans for broadband deployment projects to the European Commission. Requests must be received before 15 October 2014, and the best concepts will receive the Commission's "seal of approval", and access to more in-depth support.
Some current examples of best practice include:
Reggefiber in the Netherlands, a project which started in 2010, and has contributed greatly to the rollout of ultra high speed fibre to the home (FttH), thanks to financing from the EIB and six commercial banks; and
Iliad in France, who together with the EIB signed a €200 million project in 2012 to finance the rollout of next generation networks in France, 65% of which is earmarked to FttH development.
European Commission Vice President said: "If you're a local authority, a region, or a committed broadband activist, we are here to help you! We want to connect you to practical support and finance to help you achieve your vision for your community.”
Types of support on offer include:
Individual feedback: initial assessment of a local broadband plan to determine what support can be offered.
World Bank technical assistance: the World Bank is cooperating with experts from the European Commission who will help develop business models and advise on how your project can achieve the necessary scale to be eligible for private or public financing.
European Investment Bank:The Commission has provided seed money for the EIB, as part of its Connecting Europe Facility, to deliver tailored financing for broadband projects, backed by the banks AAA credit rating.
European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF): The EU has €453 billion available to all regions between now and 2020. Access to, and quality and use of ICT (including broadband investment) is, for the first time, one of the top priorities for these grants.
State aid: The Commission has defined special rules to assist in the granting of state aid for broadband, in ways that do not harm competition. This has seen a significant increase in the amount of state aid offered by Member States in recent years. A handbook is now available to assist you in requesting legal state aid (IP/14/535).
Why do we need a Connected Communities initiative?
The Digital Agenda targets are: 100% of EU households have 30 Mbps broadband and 50% households subscribe to 100 Mbps or more, by 2020.
Investment in broadband networks is falling short and the current data shows that 64% of EU households have available 30 Mbps and only 3% have connections of 100 Mbps.
The high-speed broadband development is slow in particular in semi-urban and rural as well as economically disadvantaged areas. Only 18% of European rural households have access to high-speed broadband.
The Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) is an important source for broadband development in the EU. Another important source of broadband funding is the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF). The European Commission has developed a Digital Agenda toolbox for the use of the ESIF in the area of broadband. The Commission has also published a number of best practice initiatives in broadband development.