EU broadband budget is 80% underspent with two years to go
Less than 20% of the money budgeted for European broadband projects this year has been allocated, according to the European Commission.
Speaking at the Every European Digital event in Brussels, the director of policy coordination for the regional policy directorate, DG Regio, Dr Rudolf Niessler said that of the €2.3bn set aside to support the roll out of broadband access networks in Europe, just over €418m has been allocated to projects. However, as these figurs are for the end of 2009, things may have improved somewhat.
Dr Harald Gruber, who evaluates broadband project proposals for the European Investment Bank (EIB), said the bank was looking for projects, especially high speed broadband.
“There is a lack of compelling business cases, especially outside cities,” he said. “It is hard to find backers for fibre to the home (FTTH) projects.”
However, the EIB recently gave €150m to France’s Iliad group for a four million home FTTH scheme.
Niessler said a total of €15.2bn was up for grabs for this budget period, which ends in 2013. He called on countries to come up with suitable projects before then or else the money would disappear.
“It is not acceptable to fail to spend the money allocated,” he said.
Several speakers suggested that the countries that were providing most of the funding were unlikely to encourage uptake or to warn of the impending deadline. “It’s money back in their pockets,” said one.
DG Regio was now working with member states and public authorities to find processes and projects that would speed up broadband spending. It had identified three “RegioStar” case studies, in the Auvergne in France, in Brandenburg, Germany and Lithuania that countries could refer to for ideas and best practice.
The UK had done relatively well, finding projects worth almost €91m, just over 80% of its €113.5m budget. Latvia and Ireland were overbudget, allocating 119% and 114% of their budgets respectively, Niesseler said.
Niessler said many member states suffered from a broadband “absorption” problem. “They find it easier to identify road building projects than broadband projects,” he said. Poland, he said, had been given a €1bn broadband budget this year but less than 1% had been allocated.
Source: DG Regio