Published: 31st May 2016
European regulators have given the go-ahead to a new UK scheme designed to help improve access to high-speed broadband connections in remote parts of the country.
The European Commission has decreed that the UK National Broadband Scheme for 2016-2020 complies with EU state aid rules. The initiative is intended to establish next-generation access (NGA) networks to provide speeds of 30 Mbps to as many UK homes and businesses as possible.
In order for schemes like this to go ahead, the government must first prove to the European Commission that the public funding does not replace private investment and that other service providers have equal access to the publicly-funded infrastructure. This prevents government initiatives from unwittingly damaging competition.
To ensure these standards are upheld, the new National Broadband Scheme has been designed to ensure it targets areas where no NGA infrastructure exists and where no private operator is willing to invest without state aid in the next three years.
Detailed mapping and public consultation exercises will also be carried out with interested private operators to ensure they are not crowded out, while efforts will be made to ensure all bidders have a fair chance to compete, regardless of their size.
Moreover, all interested operators will be able to access the subsidised infrastructure on equal and non-discriminatory terms, with various mechanisms put in place to prevent wholesale access prices from becoming excessive.
By protecting competition in this way, the EU seeks to encourage further investment and better prices and service quality for consumers and businesses.
European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who is in charge of competition policy, said: "Today's decision endorses UK plans to support the rollout of high-speed broadband infrastructure - it aims to bring faster internet to UK consumers and businesses, in line with EU state aid rules."
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