ETNO press note on the revised EU General Block Exemption Regulation for State Aid (GBER)
Our views on the GBER presented today by the European Commission
Brussels, 21.5.2014 – The European Commission presented today the revised EU General Block Exemption Regulation for State Aid (GBER, more here). ETNO welcomes the inclusion of aid for broadband infrastructure in the scope of the GBER, as public funding targeted to rural areas can prove important in helping the achievement of the Digital Agenda targets for NGA networks roll-out.
Nevertheless, ETNO expresses its concern as regards the final text of the Regulation. The provisions of the GBER for broadband infrastructure as presented today are not technology-neutral and, in practice, they will only apply to the most expensive NGA technologies – such as Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) in its Point-to-Point variant. ETNO believes that, if aid measures are to support the achievement of the Digital Agenda targets, they would need to be technology-neutral and applicable to all geographical areas. This means that also cost-efficient technologies, such as vectoring, should be included. In particular, the GBER should have taken into account that in rural areas there is usually no demand for unbundled access. Doing otherwise will not help the achievement of the Digital Agenda targets, affecting the success measures to empower growth across European regions.
ETNO Chairman Luigi Gambardella said: “ETNO’s members invest over 60% of the total CAPEX of the EU telecom industry. We believe that the deployment of broadband networks in the EU should be done primarily by the private sector. But, where public funding is necessary to fill the digital divide, we believe that the principle of technology-neutrality should consistently be respected”.