On 26 March 2013, the European Commission ("EC") published a proposal for a Regulation on "measures to reduce the cost of deploying high-speed electronic communications networks". The main objective of the proposed Regulation is to "reduce the cost and enhance the efficiency of deploying high-speed electronic communications infrastructure", in order to ensure that all European citizens and businesses have high-speed internet connections.
Background and aim
Background of the proposal is the EC's Digital Agenda for Europe, in which EC Vice President Neelie Kroes set out the ambition to realise broadband access of 30 Mbps for all households; by 2020, at least 50% of all households should have access to a speed of 100 Mbps. The Regulation aims to reduce the costs of rolling-out high speed networks with 30%. The EC estimates that its proposal could save companies EUR 40 to 60 million.
The proposed Regulation has four aims:
- Ensuring that new or renovated buildings are high-speed-broadband-ready.
- Opening access to infrastructure on fair and reasonable terms and conditions, including price, to existing ducts, conduits, manholes, cabinets, poles, masts, antennae installations, towers and other supporting constructions.
- Ending insufficient coordination of civil works, by enabling any network operator to negotiate agreements with other infrastructure providers.
- Simplifying complex and time-consuming permit granting, especially for masts and antennas, by granting or refusing permits within six months by default and allowing requests to be made through a single point of contact.
The Regulation will try to achieve these objectives by providing for minimum rights and obligations in order to facilitate the rollout of high-speed electronic communications networks and cross-sector coordination.
Closer look at the proposed measures
Pursuant to the Regulation a network operator will in principle obliged to offer access to its physical infrastructure. Network operators will be obliged to meet reasonable requests for access to its network in view of deploying elements of electronic communications networks under fair terms and conditions. Refusal of access has to be based on objective criteria, such as technical suitability, availability of space and security issues.
In addition, the Regulation will ensure transparency of physical infrastructure: Article 4 of the draft Regulation provides for a right to access a set of minimum information concerning existing physical infrastructure(s) as well as planned civil works. This is accompanied by an obligation for network operators to meet reasonable requests for in-site surveys of specific elements of their physical infrastructure. Article 6 contains a right to access to any information concerning the conditions and procedures applicable to specific civil works as well as a right to submit applications for permits by electronic means. There will be a mandatory 'single information point' that facilitates and coordinates the permit granting process and monitors compliance with deadlines. Finally, the proposed Regulation contains rights and obligations with respect to in-building equipment. Constructors are, inter alia, obliged to equip newly constructed buildings with high-speed-ready in-building physical infrastructure. The same goes for major renovations.
The draft Regulation was submitted to the European Parliament and the European Council for review and subsequent adoption. Following an agreement by the European Parliament and Council, the draft would become immediately applicable in the EU.