European Competitive Telecommunications Association

ecta, the european competitive telecommunications association, welcomes the Commission’s initiative to evaluate the State aid rules for broadband infrastructure deployment. In view both of Europe’s broadband needs as well as the transition to a new set of rules for electronic communications in the EU, this is both a necessary and appropriate initiative.

ecta further shares the continued commitment to maintain technology neutral guidance on the application of State aid rules to the deployment of broadband infrastructure. Not technology choice, but deployment and performance improvements relative to the status quo must be the criteria that decide whether aid schemes can stand up to EU competition scrutiny.

Such an approach matches the regulatory philosophy underpinning the EU’s unique set of rules for the promotion of competition in electronic communications markets. ecta believes that one of the most important challenges for the review will be to ensure that with the adoption of new guidance it can be guaranteed that funding initiatives, review decisions and regulation of those markets all act together to provide a sustainable basis for competitive, inclusive and affordable connectivity solutions in the EU.

Especially coherence should therefore be thoroughly assessed in both backward- and forward-looking perspectives. Without close examination of the interaction between relevant instruments from outside and within the State aid context, ecta believes that the evaluation results will be unable to provide a sound foundation for designing future policy, including in the formulation of appropriate objectives.

Both the new European Electronic Communications Code and the Broadband Cost Reduction Directive seek to contribute to the establishment of infrastructure-based competition. The effects of these instruments should be considered in reviewing the guidance for the grant of State aid to further infrastructure deployments, including how rule changes have thus far shaped market participants’ decisions whether or not to deploy.

In the interest of ensuring targeted interventions going forward, the evaluation of the current State aid regime should also assess whether existing guidance and exemptions have resulted in effective prioritisation of spending, timely disbursement and sustainable deployments. ecta agrees that particular attention in this context should be had to the avoidance of local monopolies and attendant customer lock-in as well as the effective promotion of service competition.

As a last element to be highlighted at this initial stage of the evaluation process, ecta also encourages enquiry into the institutional settings for the administration, including the review, of State aid schemes for broadband. This should notably have regard to the effective participation by and protection of the interests of smaller market participants, taking into account the need for appropriate procedural frameworks.

Representing competitive leaders in closing the digital infrastructure divide in Europe, ecta, with its members, looks forward to providing targeted input the to relevant consultations, public and targeted, to be launched this autumn and will be equally pleased to provide for bespoke participation to the Commission's upcoming events in this context.


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