Wrapping up a consultative process that commenced in May, the European Commission (EC) has issued rules that set forth the conditions under which state funds would be used to facilitate deployment of broadband networks throughout the European Union (EU). Announced late last week by EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes, the new guidelines apply to next generation access, ADSL, cable and Wi-Fi broadband networks to be built in underserved “gray” areas that lack sufficient broadband service, or in mainly rural “white” areas where no broadband infrastructure currently exists. To avoid competitive distortions, the rules include safeguards that require detailed mapping to identify eligible gray and white areas, transparency in the process for granting financial aid, and the imposition of open access obligations on carriers that receive state funding. Estimating that up to US $442 billion will be spent on broadband networks in Europe over the next decade, Kroes predicted that the state funding guidelines will “[enhance] European competitiveness . . . helping to build a knowledge-based society in Europe.” Adding that “public funds are not always needed for public authorities to promote broadband deployment,” Kroes further advised that, “before granting state aid, public authorities should therefore consider whether they can promote private investments with other means.”