LEAK: EU Commission to propose mandatory measures to accelerate network rollout

Access to public buildings, coordination of civil works, streamlining of permit procedures and single information points are at the centre of the EU executive’s legislation to fast-track the deployment of high-capacity networks like 5G, according to an undated draft obtained by EURACTIV.

The European Commission is due to present a regulation on measures to reduce the cost of deploying gigabit electronic communications networks, the Gigabit Infrastructure Act. The proposal is a revision of the Broadband Cost Reduction Directive (BCRD).

The Directive was adopted in 2014 to reduce costs and red tape for deploying high-speed digital infrastructure. However, it was largely ignored or misinterpreted by the member states, prompting the Commission to move toward a regulation that does not need to be transposed into national law.

“This regulation aims to facilitate and stimulate the rollout of very high capacity networks by promoting the joint use of existing physical infrastructure and by enabling a more efficient deployiment of new physical infrastructure so that such networks can be rolled out at a lower cost and faster,” reads the subject matter of the draft.

The revision of the BCRD was made more urgent by the pressing need to invest in upgrading digital infrastructure to keep up with the growing bandwidth demand.

Infrastructural access

The BCRD introduced the obligation for telecom providers to provide access to physical infrastructure to other operators that are rolling out elements of new communications networks.

The definition of network operator has been extended to include providers of physical wireless infrastructure like tower companies. This increasingly present business reality plays a pivotal role in 5G deployment.

Moreover, the draft Act extends the access right to all infrastructure owned or controlled by public sector bodies functional to the deployment, except for reasons of public security, safety and health, as well as their historical values.

In other words, operators will have the right to deploy fibre via sewers, not hospitals or monuments. Grounds for refusal also include network integrity and technical feasibility.

All reasonable access requests should be met under fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms and conditions, including price. Member states might set up a body to coordinate such access requests and provide legal advice on the access conditions.

To facilitate the access, all network operators would have the right to access via a single information point some basic information concerning existing physical infrastructure, notably its location and route, type and use, and point of contact.

Network operators and public sector bodies would have to make such minimum information available within one year from the regulation’s entry into force. This transparency obligation does not apply to infrastructure considered critical for national security or where it would be too disproportionate.

Civil works

The text mandates that any network operators carrying out civil works publicly financed in whole or part would have to meet any reasonable written request to coordinate with other operators deploying high-capacity networks under FRAND terms.

The requests would have to be met as long as they do not entail additional costs and delays and are submitted two months before the final project submission to the competent authorities to request a permit.

To make such coordination possible, the proposal mandates that network operators would have to proactively make available some basic information related to their planned civil works at an early stage via the single information point.

Permit granting

The proposal establishes a new principle that rules regulating the conditions and procedures for granting permits should be consistent at the national level. Moreover, it mandates that the fees for such procedures cannot exceed the administrative costs.

All submissions would have to go through a single information point. Measures have been added to guarantee the timely approval of permits, notably in the form of tacit approval or the right to compensation for damages caused by non-compliance with the legal deadlines.

In-building infrastructure

According to the draft law, new or majorly renovated buildings must comply with in-building infrastructural requirements such as access points for networks and fibre wiring, including habitations renovated to improve energy efficiency.

As a result, a mandatory ‘fibre-ready label’ will become necessary for issuing building permits, except in certain locations where the requirement would be too disproportionate. The EU countries would have to adopt national standards or technical specifications to qualify for the label.

Single information points

To favour the digitalisation of national procedure and information sharing, the national authorities would have to establish a single information point, which might receive EU funding.

[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]


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