EC Adopts Revised State Aid Rules for Broadband Networks

EC Adopts Revised State Aid Rules for Broadband Networks

The European Commission has adopted a revised Communication on State aid for broadband networks (Broadband Guidelines). The revised Broadband Guidelines set out the rules under which the EC will assess State aid measures notified by Member States to support the deployment and take-up of broadband networks in the EU.

The new rules contribute to the EU's strategic objectives of ensuring gigabit connectivity for everyone and 5G coverage everywhere by the end of the decade, which is essential to achieve the digital transition of the Union. The new Guidelines will enter into force the day following their publication in the Official Journal of the EU, which is expected in January 2023.

The revised Broadband Guidelines will provide an up-to-date framework to support the digital transition and reflect technological, regulatory, and market developments. In addition, the new rules reflect the current EU policy priorities as set out in the  Gigabit Society Communication, the Shaping Europe's Digital Future Communication, the Digital Compass Communication, as well as the Digital Decade Policy Programme recently adopted by the European Parliament and the Council.

In particular, the revised Guidelines align the threshold for public support to fixed networks with the latest technological and market developments. These changes will allow Member States to invest in areas where the market does not and is not likely to provide end-users with a download speed of at least 1 Gbps and an upload speed of at least 150 Mbps. Any State investment will have to at least triple the available download speed and, in competitive areas, provide at least 1 Gbps download and 150 Mbps upload speeds.

The new Guidelines introduce a new assessment framework for the deployment of mobile (including 5G) networks. They will enable Member States to support mobile networks where the investment would not otherwise have been undertaken by private operators and is not guaranteed by other measures, such as the coverage obligations attached to the use of some radio spectrum. Guidelines also explain how public support can be used to incentivize the take-up of broadband services, simplify certain rules, clarify and provide further guidance on certain key concepts, and update the criteria used for balancing the positive impact of the aid against its negative effects on competition and trade.

The adoption of the revised Broadband Guidelines follows an evaluation of the existing rules conducted in 2020 and a consultation of interested parties on the proposed revised text, including Member States, businesses, interest groups, companies, NGOs, and citizens. The review builds on the Commission's experience gained in the application of the previous rules as reflected in its case practice in recent years.