By Thomas Woldiderich, 16. July 2009
In March 2009 the European heads of state and governments entered into a financial agreement aimed at stimulating the European economy. In the agreement, up to EUR 1 billion was earmarked for broadband infrastructure in the member states. Apart from securing broadband coverage in the areas of Europe where citizens cannot yet get on the Internet, the agreement also stressed that the EU funds should be used for upgrading the existing broadband network to meet future capacity requirements.
In other words, the money is not allocated to mountain villages in Bulgaria or olive farms in Greece; small communities or small islands in Denmark will also be able to benefit from the large broadband pool, which when converted totals more than DKK 7.5 billion.
That there is a need for this help in Denmark is demonstrated by the latest survey of broadband coverage by the National IT and Telecom Agency. The survey shows that there are major gaps when we in Denmark merely approach 10 Mbit/s broadband coverage. The need for broadband is increasing at an explosive rate and the EU Commission has pointed out that there is an annual increase in Internet traffic of 60%. So even 10 Mbit/s will be much too little broadband in a few years, even for basic broadband services.
The EU Commission has acknowledged this fact and is expected to publish new EU guidelines at the end of July for the use of EU state aid regulations in connection with fast establishment of the broadband net. With these guidelines the member states will be able, under given preconditions, to use state aid for coverage using the current ADSL and cable-based net, or to use it in connection with the next generation of broadband net in the form of upgraded cable or fibre net.
With the guidelines and the approx. DKK 7.5 billion, the EU Commission wishes to kick-start the development and rolling out of ultra-fast broadband in the member states. The deadline for applying for the EU’s billions is 15th July 2009, where the Commission will identify the projects that will receive support and fix the budget for 2009.
The Danish government has applied for part of the funds, which are exclusively earmarked green growth within the agricultural sector.
When citizens living on i.e. the small Danish islands and in small communities in rural and remote areas thus fail to benefit from the EU’s broadband funds, this is among other things due to the special Danish conditions for the municipalities involvement in relation to securing broadband for their citizens. Here the special Danish regulations in the municipality mandate often put a stop to a more active involvement in the securing of the digital infrastructure. In addition, this is also due to a Danish view that Denmark is already close to having 100% broadband. However, this ignores how fast the connections accessible on i.e. the small islands are.
The problem of coverage of e.g. the small Danish islands and the use of state aid and EU funds has now been taken up by MP John Dyrby Paulsen from the Social Democratic Party, who has asked the Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation Helge Sander many questions in the Danish Folketing.
John Dyrby Paulsen calls for the study that the government promised in 2007 on the public//private cooperation on broadband and on the opportunity of using EU funds to support the distribution of broadband in thinly populated areas. According to the government the aim was ”to provide local players with more tools for securing broadband coverage in their area". The initiative was intended to ensure improved broadband coverage, particularly in the thinly populated areas.
On top of this, the Social Democratic Party asks whether the government will use the EU Commission’s new proposal for guidelines regarding state aid for broadband to secure coverage for Denmark’s small islands.
John Dyrby Paulsen also urges the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation to take the initiative and carry out a survey of the areas of Denmark where coverage by ultra-fast broadband (double digit Mbit/s rates and above) is lagging behind, so that it can become clear where there is a need for the government to make efforts to ensure that these areas are not left in the lurch for an unnecessarily long period of time.