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Broadband state aid rules explained - handbook for decision-makers

08 May 2014
by eub2 -- last modified 08 May 2014

The European Commission has published new guidance to help governments invest in broadband. The handbook is useful for any public authority investing in broadband or looking at co-funding projects with EU structural and investment funds (ESIF).


Some facts

  • Public broadband finance may take the form of direct financial grants, tax rebates, loans and other tools.
  • When a network is created with taxpayers' money, it is fair that the consumers benefit from a truly open network where competition is ensured.
  • Some finance (below €200,000) does not need to be notified to the European Commission.
  • "Fast broadband" and "basic broadband" projects are treated differently under EU state rules.

Today's handbook is based on the Commission's State Aid Broadband Guidelines which were revised in December 2012 (see Guidelines). The handbook explains how to design a good project from the start and whom to contact at regional and EU level to obtain funding and advice. It also outlines the minimum conditions for state aid approval.

The guide suggests how to choose appropriate technology for broadband deployment and a business model. Here are some examples:

Bottom-up (or local community) model. This approach focuses on a group of end users of a particular area organising themselves into a jointly-owned and democratically controlled group. Such a group could be organized as a co-operative, for example. The group would oversee the contract to build and operate the own local network. One project in the Netherlands helped 7,500 homes get fibre network.

Public design, build and operate model. The network is owned and operated without any private sector assistance. A public organisation or a public sector operating company may operate the entire network, or may only operate the wholesale layer (with private operators offering retail services). One project in Lithuania aims at improving access to broadband in rural areas, bringing coverage to 98% of the area. It helps eliminating the digital divide, increasing social cohesion and contributing to economic growth with a more competitive rural sector.


Bringing high-speed internet to all European citizens is one of the key pillars of the Digital Agenda for Europe, which aims to ensure all homes have access to high-speed broadband of at least 30 Mbps by 2020.

The first Digital Agenda broadband milestone has been reached - every EU household now has access to a basic broadband connection.

In December 2012 the Commission revised its guidelines on state aid for broadband, to adapt them to market developments and align them with the objectives of the Digital Agenda for Europe and the Commission's initiative on State Aid Modernisation.


Handbook for decision makers - The broadband State aid rules explained

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