On Tuesday, MEPs in the Industry, Research and Energy Committee adopted their negotiating position on draft legislation that would reduce the costs of deploying gigabit-capable networks (which can allow data downloads at a speed of 1 gigabit per second). It seeks to stimulate investments in digital infrastructure, foster economic growth and ensure that European businesses remain at the forefront of global innovation.
The Act would simplify, reduce the cost, and expedite administrative procedures for granting permits, reduce bureaucratic hurdles for operators and national administrations, thereby making the deployment process smoother and faster. In their amendments, MEPs reduce the time that national authorities have to take a decision on whether to grant a permit from four to two months.
Measures would facilitate access to physical infrastructure such as buildings, rooftops, facades and street furniture. They would also encourage existing physical infrastructures, such as ducts, poles, masts, antenna installations, towers, and other supporting constructions to be shared, to minimise costly civil engineering works and accelerate the roll out high-speed networks.
The legislation would also introduce measures to coordinate civil works carried out by network operators or public authorities. Specific provisions also aim to incentivise and speed up the extension of coverage to rural, remote and scarcely populated areas. In order to achieve this, in very limited situations, access obligations would be expanded to commercial buildings in areas with poor coverage and in those where no public buildings are available to host infrastructure.
Abolition of fees for intra-EU calls
MEPs also introduced provisions for the abolition of fees for end-users for intra-EU calls and SMS. To avoid unnecessary excessive prices, MEPs believe legislation should be adopted to regulate intra-EU calls before the current provisions expire in May 2024
“In today’s world, access to high speed internet is a necessity, and even a right – the right to connectivity. The objective of this act is to ensure that, by 2030, all EU households should have access to fixed gigabit networks and all populated areas, including rural areas, have 5G coverage so no one is left behind. We do this by cutting red tape, simplifying procedures, and speeding up the permit granting process so operators will become more competitive in deploying these networks,” lead MEP Alin Mituța (Renew, RO) said.
“MEPs have taken a courageous step in voting for the elimination of all extra fees for intra-EU communication, for the benefit of our citizens and for our single market, as this legislation is our last chance to act in time to avoid an increase in charges” he added.
The draft mandate was adopted with 48 votes in favour to 1 against, with 5 abstentions. MEPs also voted to open negotiations with Council by 45 votes to 2, with 4 abstentions – a decision which will have to be greenlit by all MEPs in a forthcoming plenary session.
Across the EU, disparities in digital access and literacy have become increasingly evident. While urban centres often benefit from the latest technological advancements, rural and remote areas can lag behind.
This digital divide not only hinders individual opportunities but also stifles the potential for regional economic growth. The Gigabit Infrastructure Act, with its emphasis on comprehensive connectivity, seeks to address this imbalance, ensuring that every European citizen, regardless of their location, can access and benefit from digital services.