Europe Wants To Slash $77B Off Broadband Rollouts By Cutting Red Tape And Requiring High Speed Links In All New Builds

The European Commission wants half of the region’s households to have Internet connections of 100Mbps or more by 2020, with minimum connections of 30Mbps for everyone; so today it kicked off one part of the plan it has to get it there: cutting €60 billion ($77 billion) of red tape.

Under proposals laid out today by EC VP Neelie Kroes, every new home that will be built in Europe will be equipped for high-speed broadband. She also suggested a drastic reduction in the time it takes to get broadband building permits approved, with the maximum wait time capped at six months, but with the ideal being automatic approval.

The same will go for the building of new masts for wireless 4G services — something that could cause some controversy, considering the opposition that has surrounded the building of radio masts for mobile services up to now in some places like the UK.

Part of the context for these proposals is that money that had been set aside in the European budget for improving broadband connectivity is disappearing amid ongoing economic problems in Europe. Between now and 2020, legislators are proposing cuts of €50-70 billion from the digital portion of the Connecting Europe Facility. “Savings have to be found in other ways or the networks will not be built,” a person close to Kroes writes in an email. “This regulation is the most efficient way to achieve up to €60 billion in savings.”

The other is that cutting red tape, and making this a proposal ordered down by the EC, will potentially mean more harmonized implementations on the local level, both in terms of actual regulations but also in terms of how, for example, utilities like water and electric companies interface with broadband providers for service provisions. That would mostly benefit larger companies, like multinational telecoms operators or construction companies who may be involved in buildouts in more than one place.

“In most places, today’s rules hurt Europe’s competitiveness,” said Kroes in a press conference in Brussels earlier today.

Other proposals seem to speak more to demands from to smaller players in the broadband ecosystem as well. One key point, Kroes notes, is opening access to broadband infrastructure on “fair and reasonable terms and conditions, including price.” This would give competition advocates another battlefield on which to argue for fair prices for smaller startups to offer services alongside big incumbents.

“The proposals to reduce the costs of deployment of fibre networks are very welcome,” Tom Ruhan, chair of ECTA the European Competitive Telecommunications Association, noted in a statement. He says that more than 70% of all fibre-to-the-home investments in Europe are made by alternative operators, who “thus share the highest investment costs proportionally. Reducing those costs would speed up the deployment of open networks and the provision of competitive communication services to businesses and consumers.”

Today’s announcements come ahead of a bigger piece of legislation, a 10-point broadband plan, which will be announced this summer and provide a blueprint for how Europe plans to achieve a single market for ICT. One big concern is how to get less developed European countries, as well as more remote and rural areas, up to speed with metropolitan centers in the biggest countries like the UK, France and Germany.

Europe has estimated that a 10% growth in high-speed broadband adoption could have a knock-on effect on GDP growth of up to 1.5%.