EU consults on state aid rules for high-speed Internet

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The European Commission yesterday (19 May) launched a public consultation on draft guidelines that will determine when governments can grant public funds for rolling out high-speed broadband networks.

EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said in a statement: “My objective is to provide a clear and predictable framework for the application of EU state aid rules in this strategic sector.”

“This is all the more important in the present economic circumstances, as investments in this important infrastructure may both help economic recovery in the short term and allow long-term benefits for European competitiveness.”

The Commission is targeting 100% high-speed Internet coverage for the 27-nation bloc by 2010 and proposed in November to invest one billion euro as part of its economic recovery plan to drive growth in the region. EU leaders endorsed the plan at a summit in March (EURACTIV 23/03/09).

Interested parties can submit their views until 22 June, following which the EU executive will adopt definite broadband guidelines later in the year.

Under the draft guidelines, the Commission said it would take a positive view of public financing for the roll-out of a broadband network in areas that lack high-speed connectivity.

It expects to be more critical in regions where companies are already competing in offering broadband services.

The Commission recently shelved a long-awaited recommendation on broadband until the end of the year because of delays in the adoption of the EU’s telecoms package (EURACTIV 15/05/09).

(EURACTIV with Reuters).

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