The European Commission has approved, under EU State aid rules, €2.6 billion of public support for the Irish National Broadband Plan. The scheme will bring high-speed broadband services to consumers and businesses in areas with insufficient connectivity in Ireland.
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy said: “The National Broadband Plan in Ireland is expected to address the significant digital divide between urban and rural areas in Ireland, enabling Irish consumers and businesses to benefit from the full potential of digital growth. This will help households and businesses in areas of Ireland where private investment is insufficient.”
The National Broadband Plan has an indicative budget of €2.6 billion. The scheme aims to address connectivity deficits across Ireland and to achieve 100% high-speed coverage.
The new network will be capable of supporting download speeds of at least 150 Megabits per second (Mbps) and upload speeds of at least 30 Megabits per second (Mbps). It will also provide access to improved broadband services, which will stimulate the development of a modern digital economy.
The scheme targets areas where no broadband infrastructure offering download speeds of at least 30 Mbps is currently in place, and where no private investor has demonstrated a concrete plan to invest commercially in the near future.The Irish authorities have developed a comprehensive mapping of available infrastructure and carried out numerous public consultations in order to determine the target areas.
The subsidised network will offer wholesale access to all operators on an open, transparent and non-discriminatory basis, and will therefore incentivise private investments in the provision of high-speed internet services to households and businesses in the target areas.
The Commission assessed the measure under EU State aid rules, in particular its 2013 Broadband Guidelines. The Commission concluded that the scheme’s positive effects on competition in the Irish broadband market outweigh potential negative effects brought about by the public intervention. On this basis, the Commission approved the measure under EU State aid rules.
Broadband connectivity is of strategic importance for European growth and innovation in all sectors of the economy, as well as for social and territorial cohesion. The Digital Agenda for Europeacknowledges the socio-economic benefits of broadband and sets targets for broadband development in Europe, including that 50% or more of European households should subscribe to internet connections above 100 Mbps.
The Digital Agenda for Europe was complemented in 2016 by the Gigabit Communication, which defines connectivity objectives to be achieved by 2025, where the development of very high capacity networks able to provide download speeds of at least 100 Mbps, upgradeable to 1 Gbps, should enable the widespread use of products, services and applications in the Digital Single Market.
The 2013 Broadband Guidelines allow for public interventions where private initiatives are not sufficient, while protecting private investment and competition as a key driver for investment, better prices and quality of services for consumers and businesses.
The non-confidential version of the current decision will be made available under the case number SA.54472 in the State Aid Register on the DG Competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of state aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the State Aid Weekly e-News