State aid: Commission approves €200 million extension of Spanish scheme to support access to high-speed broadband services in underserved areas with funds from the Recovery and Resilience Fund (RRF)

The European Commission has approved, under EU State aid rules, a €200 million extension of an existing Spanish scheme to support the roll out of support Next Generation Access (NGA) broadband services in underserved areas. The existing scheme was initially approved by the Commission in 2008 (SA.25137), last prolonged in December 2019 (SA.53925) and due to expire at the end of 2022. The scheme supports the implementation of broadband deployment projects covering the 8% of Spanish population living in areas where still less than 100 megabits per second (Mbps) download speed is provided, with the objective of offering 300 Mbps up- and download speeds, upgradeable to 1 gigabits per second (Gbps) up- and download speeds. This measure will contribute to ensuring more than 100 Mpbs download speed coverage for 100% of the Spanish population by 2025. Spain notified the following modification to the existing scheme: (i) a prolongation until 31 December 2024; and (ii) an increase in the total budget of the measure by €200 million (from €400 million to €600 million). The new budget will be made available through the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), provided that the Spanish recovery and resilience plan is assessed positively by the Commission and approved by the Council. The RRF funds would be provided in addition to the existing support from European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and national funds. More generally, all investments and reforms entailing State aid contained in the national recovery plans presented in the context of the RRF must be notified to the Commission for prior approval, unless covered by one of the State aid block-exemption rules, in particular the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER). The Commission will assess such measures as a matter of priority and has provided guidance and support to Member States in the preparatory phases of the national plans, to facilitate the rapid deployment of the RRF. At the same time, the Commission makes sure in its decision that the applicable State aid rules are complied with, in order to preserve the level playing field in the Single Market and ensure that the RRF funds are used in a way that minimises competition distortions and do not crowd out private investment. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.62696 in the State aid register on the Commission’s competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.