Saturday, March 31, 2012

Europe - The EC has published a report on the implementation of national broadband plans

The European Commission staff working document on the implementation of national broadband plans - SWD(2012)68 final/2 - was published as part of the Digital Agenda for Europe. It is intended to help share best practice.

On basic broadband the remaining coverage gaps are predominantly rural. The EC has previously issued a Communication Better access for rural areas to modern ICT.

There is wider variation in speeds for next generation access, from 30 to 100 Mbps. At the top end is Luxembourg which has a 2020 target of 1Gbps/0.5Gbps (download/upload).
In setting NGA targets, several Member States focus on what is achievable by ‘optimised’ market forces. They acknowledge the need to ‘improve the market’, which may require limited public funding, but are not prepared to countenance large-scale public intervention. The most quoted reason seems to be that there is not sufficient evidence of market failure, as there are not many applications which would require NGA bandwidths in the foreseeable future. In support of this argument they point to low takeup rates in areas where ultra-fast connections are already available. These countries tend to fix high-speed targets in line with what they predict the market will supply, although some indicate that they would be ready to revisit their approach in the event of a substantial change in supply and demand parameters.

In terms of demand for NGA, only five countries (Cyprus, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania and Portugal) which have fully subscribed to the DAE targets have integrated take-up targets into their broadband plans. The fact that so few have entered into commitments reflects the belief that demand will follow supply and, hence, a policy that leads to the desired supply is all that is needed. Again, a number of Member States question the rationale for ultra-fast broadband subscription targets, claiming there is little evidence of market failure and no visible externalities associated with a connectivity subscription as such. This group tends to disregard, or disagree, that widespread usage of high-speed connectivity may be a precondition for the development of new applications which are not necessarily known today or that already today the simultaneous use of numerous existing applications may push current bandwidths to their limits.

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