Kroes says EU doesn't need NBN Co

Europe does not need an Australian-style NBN Co to push deployment of next-generation networks, Digital Agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes says.

Instead, rules outlined in the Agenda, a recent Broadband Communication andRadio Spectrum Policy will be sufficient to achieve the European Commission’s goals of offering basic broadband access for all citizens by 2013, high speed access by 2020, the commissioner told Telecoms

“What is essentially different between the Australian and European telecom environment is that Europe favours a market driven approach,” Kroes said in an exclusive interview.

While the Digital Agenda and Broadband Communication set out similar targets to Australia’s goal of 100% penetration, the EC prefers to work on regional, national and local initiatives that can stimulate private investment, she explains.

Indeed, the EC should only become involved in individual rollouts “if the market fails to deliver,” she said.

However, it is essential that member states keep their broadband plans up-to-date and look to cut the cost of deploying infrastructure by co-coordinating civil engineering works, highlighting existing infrastructure that could carry cable, and upgrading the wiring in buildings.

Kroes believes high-speed networks are now vital to boost the region's economy.

“If Europe failed to invest in broadband it would forego a very significant source of growth potential. That is why the broadband targets have been proposed and why they are, if anything, more relevant now in these times of austerity,” Kroes said.

Additional European funding for local and regional authorities seeking to stimulate the market will be made available in the coming years, and the Commission is seeking to grow its co-operation with the European Investment Bank (EIB) “and possibly other institutional investors,” to secure additional funds for broadband deployment, the commissioner revealed.

The EIB currently invests €2 billion per year in broadband projects, and any increase could spur investment in projects with a “higher risk profile,” Kroes explained.

Ultimately, though, investment will rely on a clear message from national regulators, Kroes says, noting that a “consistent regulatory approach…is important to give investors confidence for the design of their business plans.”

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