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UK broadband scheme complies with EU state aid rules

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UK broadband scheme complies with EU state aid rules

Photo © Anatoly Vartanov - Fotolia

(BRUSSELS) - UK plans to support the roll-out of high speed broadband infrastructure over the next four years received the EU green light on Thursday.

The UK's National Broadband Scheme for 2016-2020 aims to connect homes and businesses throughout the UK to high speed broadband.

Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said the scheme for faster Internet throughout the UK complies with EU state aid rules. The decision comes just over one month after the UK notified the scheme to the EU.

The National Broadband Scheme for the UK for 2016-2020 aims to increase coverage of high speed broadband in the UK by deploying Next Generation Access networks (NGA), i.e. networks that can ensure speeds above 30 megabit per second (mbps).

The scheme will ensure roll-out of NGA broadband to as many UK homes and businesses as possible, in order to extend coverage as far as possible across the UK. It will be valid until 31 December 2020.

The Commission's state aid assessment aims to ensure that public funding does not take the place of private investment. It also ensures that other service providers can use the publicly funded infrastructure on a non-discriminatory basis.

In its decision, the Commission says it is satisfied that public money will be spent on under-served areas; that public investment will not be crowding out private investment; that aid awarded will give fair chances for all bidders – big and small, and regardless of technology; and that there will be fair access to subsidised infrastructure through open access tenders.

Even though the UK is well above the EU average in fast-broadband coverage (71%), with 91% of households covered by high-speed broadband (at least 30 Mbps), the UK is looking to further invest in broadband infrastructure, in particular in rural areas, where the deployment is more costly and often not profitable enough to be spontaneously triggered by the market.

The Commission says that where the market does not provide sufficient broadband coverage or the access conditions are not adequate, public interventions (state aid) may help to remedy such market failure.

The non-confidential version of the Commission's decision will be made available under the case number SA.40720 in the State Aid Register on the DG Competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of state aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the State Aid Weekly e-News.

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