Connect with us

Digital technology

Gigabit infrastructure act: Council and Parliament strike a deal for faster deployment of high-speed networks in the EU

SHARE:

Published

on

To accelerate the deployment of gigabit network infrastructure across Europe, the Council presidency and European Parliament’s negotiators reached a provisional agreement today on a proposal to replace the 2014 broadband cost-reducing directive (BCRD) by the gigabit infrastructure act (GIA).

GIA is an essential piece of legislation to achieve Europe’s connectivity objectives and targets, as set out in the EU’s digital compass for this decade, and to deploy the next generation electronic communications networks in the EU.

"In Europe, the roll-out of fibre and 5G could be a lot easier with less administration. We are tackling that administrative burden through the so-called Gigabit Infrastructure Act. We have struck a preliminary agreement with the European Parliament now. This would allow European citizens to surf faster using fibre or 5G."
Petra de Sutter, Belgian deputy prime and minister of public enterprises, public administration, post and telecommunication

"With the conclusion of the trilogue, Belgium demonstrates its firm commitment to fast and optimal internet access for all. By unifying the network across the whole territory, we are building bridges into a wider European ecosystem, demonstrating our interest in Europe-wide harmonisation. This initiative will not only promote fast connectivity for our fellow citizens, but also economies of scale for the operators and businesses involved."
Mathieu Michel, Belgian Secretary of State for digitisation, administrative simplification, privacy protection and building regulation

Main objectives of the new legislation

The new law aims to lower the unnecessarily high costs of the electronic communication infrastructure deployment, partially caused by the permit-granting procedures before deploying or upgrading the networks. These procedures are still complex, sometimes lengthy, and different across member states.

The regulation also aims to speed up the deployment of the networks, provide legal certainty and transparency for all economic actors involved, and provide for more efficient planning and deployment processes for operators of public electronic communications networks.

This law of minimum harmonisation nature also addresses deployment and access to in-building physical infrastructure. It is expected to facilitate cross-border applications and to allow stakeholders, electronic communications operators, equipment manufacturers or civil engineering companies, to achieve better economies of scale.

Advertisement

The co-legislators’ amendments

The provisional agreement maintains the general thrust of the Commission proposal. However, the co-legislators amended parts of the proposal, mainly regarding the following aspects:

  • a mandatory conciliation mechanism between public sector bodies and telecom operators was introduced as an intermediate step to facilitate the permit-granting procedure
  • an exception for a transitional period for smaller municipalities was included, as well as specific provisions to promote connectivity in rural and remote areas
  • the factors when calculating fair and reasonable conditions for access were clarified
  • a specific provision to address the presence of intermediaries between landowners and infrastructure operators was introduced
  • specific provisions were agreed on a voluntary ‘fibre-ready’ label for buildings
  • several carve-outs for critical national infrastructure were included in the text.

Finally, given that the current retail price for regulated intra-EU communications will expire on 14 May 2024, the provisional agreement provides for the continuation of consumer protection, especially for vulnerable users, by extending the price caps, which are €0,19 per minute for calls and €0,06 per SMS message at present.

The provisional agreement ensures overall that member states have a wide autonomy in issuing stricter and more detailed rules on several important elements of this new regulation. The new law will apply 18 months after its entry into force with some specific provisions applying at a later stage.

Next steps

Following today’s provisional agreement, technical work by experts of both institutions will continue with a view to submitting a compromise text to the co-legislators for endorsement. From the Council side, the Belgian presidency aims to present the text to member states’ representatives (Coreper) for approval as soon as possible. Following its approval, the draft legislative act will be submitted to a legal/linguistic review before being formally adopted by both institutions, published in the EU’s Official Journal, and entering into force 20 days after this publication.

Background information

The broadband cost reduction directive (BCRD, 2014/61/EU), currently in force, aimed to facilitate the roll-out of high-speed electronic communications networks by lowering the costs of deployment with a set of harmonised measures. The digital targets, on which BCRD was based, have either been reached or become obsolete since 2014. For example, though the ratio of European households having access to a 30 Mbps internet network has risen from 58,1% in 2013 to 90,1% in 2021, this speed is not any more future proof, given the increased need of businesses and citizens to access networks with much higher capacity.

Beside the advances in the digital technologies since 2014, other factors have made the revision of the BCRD necessary as well. Low returns on equity and high investment costs that prevail in the telecom industry have started to derail the progress to reach the 2030 digital targets laid down in the Digital Decade Policy Programme. The Commission estimates that the investment gap between the present level and what would be necessary to reach these connectivity targets, is around EUR 65 billion annually.

On 23 February 2023, the Commission submitted a proposal on measures to reduce the cost of deploying gigabit electronic communications networks and repealing Directive 2014/61/EU (gigabit infrastructure act). On 3 June 2023, the Telecommunications Council took note of a progress report and on 5 December 2023, reached a general approach on this file.

Gigabit infrastructure act: Council adopts position for faster deployment of high-speed networks in the EU (press release, 5 December 2023)

Gigabit infrastructure act, Council’s progress report, 3 June 2023

Gigabit infrastructure act, Commission proposal, 23 February 2023

Broadband cost reduction directive (BCRD), 23 May 2014

Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash

Share this article:

EU Reporter publishes articles from a variety of outside sources which express a wide range of viewpoints. The positions taken in these articles are not necessarily those of EU Reporter.

Trending