EU Offers Finance And Support For Community Broadband Projects

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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EU invites proposals for support and funding from broadband organisations as it seeks to improve superfast coverage

The European Commission has invited local, regional or national community broadband projects, both public and private, to apply for support and financial assistance as the EU seeks to achieve its goal of 100 percent superfast coverage by 2020.

All proposals for the ‘Connected Communities’ initiative must be received by October 2014, with the best concepts receiving access to EU assistance.

“If you’re a local authority, a region, or a committed broadband activist, we are here to help you,” says European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes. “We want to connect you to practical support and finance to help you achieve your vision for your community.”

EC Connected Communities

broadband network fibreSuccessful proposals will receive individual feedback and help to develop a business model capable of receiving private or public funding, while the European Investment Bank (EIB) could provide tailored financing.

Some projects will even be eligible for some of the €453 billion available from the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) over the next six years, with ICT, including broadband, a priority area over the next few years.

It highlights the Reggefiber project in the Netherlands, which is rolling out FTTP with financing from the EIB and six commercial banks, and Iliad in France, which received €200m from the EIB to finance FTTC and FTTP rollout in the country, as example projects.

European broadband

The EU says the Connected Communities scheme is essential because of low investment in superfast broadband in member states. The Digital Agenda is currently aiming for 100 percent of households to receive at least 30Mbps and 50 percent to have access to 100Mbps by 2020, but currently, just 64 percent can get 30Mbps and only 3 percent have 100Mbps.

It also bemoans slow development in rural and semi-rural areas and says only 18 percent of Europeans can receive superfast broadband.

In the UK, the government has pledged £530 million towards the rollout of fibre in areas considered not commercially viable through the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) project, and is funding a number of other initiatives to increase the spread of superfast broadband.

Britain is performing above the European average in terms of coverage, but the EC has warned that although access is improving, more must be done to close the digital gap and teach citizens about the benefits of superfast broadband for both personal and business use.

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