Leading from some conversations over the last couple of weeks I thought I’d have a look to see if there exists any link between EU State Aid rulings for broadband projects and that countries ranking in the fibre league tables. At the moment, this is little more than a work in progress while I try to understand why some countries make a big deal out of EU State Aid rules (UK tends to top the list) and how some countries seem able to make progress more efficiently  – please drop me a line if you can help!

This is what the data so far seems to suggest:

The more fibre you have, the less your Government feels the need to refer decisions to the EU for approval

This table ranks EU countries according to the FttH Council League table, along with the the proportion of EU state aid decisions since 2003. If you’re looking for the UK, you’ll need to keep looking to the bottom of the table where you’ll find that we’re unranked by the FttH Council whilst accounting for 25% of all EU decisions, the highest proportion of any country. The UK started early as well with the first decision (in fact, the first 4!).

RankingCountryEU Decisions
1Lithuania3%
2Sweden1%
3Slovenia1%
4Estonia1%
5Denmark0%
6Slovakia0%
7Finland3%
8Netherlands4%
9Italy15%
10Latvia1%
11France5%
12Czech1%
13Portugal0%
14Bulgaria0%
UnrankedAustria3%
UnrankedCyprus1%
UnrankedGermany20%
UnrankedGreece1%
UnrankedHungary1%
UnrankedIreland4%
UnrankedSpain8%
UnrankedUK25%

At this time, there is no obvious and complete reason for this – the countries which have fewer decisions and more fibre don’t seem to have been caught breaking the rules especially – although I’m happy to be corrected. There, however, are a few possible partial explanations:

  • Many EU broadband projects tend to use templates from previous  rulings, and in fact the UK has proved to be a rich source of such templates. I’ve written about this before.
  • Most EU countries are developing national frameworks so that when public funds are used to stimulate broadband investment, the approval is essentially already done under an umbrella agreement.

At the moment, BD-UK guidelines to Local Authorities refer only to the general EU guidelines on rapid broadband delivery, leaving it to each Local Authority to ensure they are not in breach of the rules – it would seem from this that the intention is for the UK not to have a specific framework agreement, which unless we learn from the approach taken by countries ranking much higher than us may mean we continue to maintain our lead on State Aid decisions and our slow deployment of fibre.

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