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Broadband Cost Reduction Directive: summary report of the consultation for its review

The summary report of the open public consultation regarding the evaluation and review of the Broadband Cost Reduction Directive takes stock of the contributions and presents preliminary trends that emerge from them, focusing on their quantitative aspects. The objective of the public consultation, which took place from 2 December 2020 to 2 March 2021, was to gather stakeholders’ views and inputs on the implementation of the Directive to support its evaluation, as well as on possible future adjustments with a view to support the preparation of a revised legislative proposal.

Symbolic image of a mallet on a table in a courtroom

Sora Shimazaki, Pexels

Disclaimer: the views presented in this factual summary report are not the views of the European Commission but of the stakeholders that participated in this open public consultation. It cannot in any circumstances be regarded as the official position of the Commission or its services.

Objectives of the consultation

The Broadband Cost Reduction Directive aims to facilitate and incentivise the roll-out of high-speed electronic communications networks by lowering the costs of deployment with a set of harmonised measures. The responses to the public consultation complement and update evidence gathered so far by the Commission, including the report on the implementation of the Broadband Cost Reduction Directive and the continuous monitoring of its implementation in the Member States as well as market and technological developments which happened since its adoption.

The review of the Broadband Cost Reduction Directive (“the Directive”) is part of the actions announced in the Communication on ‘Shaping Europe’s Digital Future’ (COM (2020)67 final) and instrumental for achieving the connectivity objectives set by the Commission in the Communication for a Gigabit Society (COM(2016) 587 final) in Europe as well as the objectives and targets embraced by “2030 Digital Compass: the European way for Digital Decade” (COM (2021) 118 final).

 

The public consultation had as objectives to collect views on:

  1. the evaluation of the overall functioning of the Directive
  2. possible adaptations to technological, market and regulatory developments and other improvements with a view to fostering a more efficient and fast deployment of sustainable very high capacity networks (VHCN), including fibre and 5G
  3. the need for alignment with the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC)
  4. how the revised instrument might contribute to the sustainability of the electronic communications sector, in line with the ‘European Green Deal’ (COM(2019) 640)
  5. the possible reduction of administrative burden and the potential for simplification.

 

Who replied to the consultation?

Out of 96 respondents from 25 countries (22 Member States, United Kingdom, Norway and China), 36 were company/business organisations (of which operators of electronic communications networks, operators of other types of networks, operators of physical infrastructure intended to host electronic communications networks, suppliers of electronic communications equipment and related services), 23 business associations (mostly from electronic communications networks operators), 23 public authorities (local, regional and national, including national regulatory authorities (“NRAs”), six EU citizens, two NGOs, one trade union, and five others (e.g. Broadband Competence Offices, stakeholders with general interest, etc.). Four company/business organisations that responded are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from Germany (2), Slovenia (1) and Sweden (1).

Fig. 1: Distribution of responses to the public consultation by type of respondent.

Fig. 2. Distributions of responses per country.

The respondents' profiles reflect the self-selecting nature of public consultations and call for caution when interpreting the results, since they cannot be considered as a representative sample of all European stakeholders or of all stakeholders within a category of stakeholders, nor do their comments represent equal weight (e.g. European associations representing several electronic communications operators from various Member States vs. individual opinions). While three NRAs participated in this public consultation, the Board of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) has provided a separate opinion covering overall the same aspects.

Preliminary findings

On average, sections had more than 70% active participation (unless otherwise specified, by “respondents” we mean those who actually responded to the specific question/s given that respondents were free not to respond to all questions or sub-questions, according to their knowledge or specific interest). Without prejudice to the in-depth analysis of the replies, we can observe the following overall trends.

Drivers to timely and efficient deployment of electronic communications networks

 

The majority of the respondents indicate that the following aspects have a significant impact on the timely and efficient deployment of electronic communications networks: permit granting procedures (84%) and permit granting fees (54%); access to existing physical infrastructure of electronic communications networks (77%), to existing physical infrastructure of electricity supply networks (56%) or to other elements and facilities suitable to install network elements (55%); coordination of civil works and other co-investment or joint roll-out mechanisms (62%); as well as information about existing physical infrastructure (79%), about other elements and facilities suitable to install network elements (71%) or about on-going or planned civil works (68%) and access to in-building physical infrastructure (69%) (the response option “Access to existing physical infrastructures of other supply networks (e.g. water, heat, gas supply, sewerage)” was considered as an aspect to influence the timely and efficient deployment of electronic communications networks by less than half of the respondents).

Overall functioning of the Directive

36% of respondents (out of which 29% are representatives of business associations, 25% of electronic communications network operators and 36% of public authorities) consider the Directive coherent with 2009 electronic communications regulatory framework and 30% with the European Electronic Communications Code (out of which 13% are representatives of business associations, 29% of electronic communications network operators and 42% of public authorities). 45% of respondents confirm the EU added value of the harmonisation brought by the Directive through regulatory predictability and legal certainty, 29% through simple and efficient administrative procedures, 24% through ease of doing business across the EU and 23% through economies of scale for companies with operators doing business in multiple EU countries (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3. EU added value of the harmonisation brought by the Directive through various factors.

As regards the general objectives of the Directive, 20% of respondents consider the Directive effective in facilitating the roll-out of high-speed electronic communications networks at lower cost, while 26% remain neutral and 43% consider it not effective enough. As regards its operational objectives, 19% of respondents consider the Directive effective in reinforcing the coordination of civil works and 11% in reducing the time and cost of permit granting, versus 48% and 51%, respectively, that consider it ineffective. The reasons raised are, for example, the persisting barriers for network roll-out, the lack of uniform and digitalized administrative procedures and of coordination between various public administrations or the insufficiently effective Single Information Point. 34% of respondents consider that the Directive facilitated and incentivised the roll-out of electronic communications networks thanks to access to existing physical infrastructure and related transparency measures, 28% as a result of coordination of civil works and related transparency measures, 29% as a result of access to in-building physical infrastructure and related access measures, 28% due to competent bodies and other horizontal provisions, and 25% owing to permit granting procedures.

Access and availability of physical infrastructure and coordination of civil works

As regards the magnitude that the costs linked to physical infrastructure represent in relation to the overall costs of deployment of fixed and mobile/wireless networks, only less than 40% (fixed) and 20% (mobile/wireless) of all participants to the public consultation provide their related estimations (the vast majority were company/business organisations or business associations representing electronic communications network operators). About three quarters of respondents consider such costs as being above 60% in the case of fixed networks and above 40% in the case of mobile/wireless networks (Fig. 4).

Fig. 4: Percentage that costs linked to physical infrastructure represent in relation to the overall costs of deployment of fixed and mobile/wireless networks.

43% of respondents consider that the obligations to meet reasonable requests for access under fair and reasonable terms and conditions, including pricing, to physical infrastructure owned by operators of electronic communications networks are appropriate to ensure effective and proportionate access to different types of existing physical infrastructure, while 41% of respondents consider them appropriate for access to physical infrastructure owned by operators of networks other than electronic communications networks. 48% of respondents consider that the principle of ‘fair and reasonable terms and conditions’ for access to physical infrastructure under Article 3 of the Directive has not been applied effectively (with respect to the outcome) and 46% not efficiently (with respect to the time taken) by dispute resolution bodies.

With respect to access to existing physical infrastructure, the respondents consider that the lack of availability of suitable physical infrastructure(76%), the lack of information on existing physical infrastructure (59%), the difficulty to agree on terms and conditions of access with owners of physical infrastructure (58%) and the slow/ineffective dispute resolution process (54%) led to a more costly or lengthy network deployment. The views of the main categories of stakeholders are presented in Fig. 5.

Fig. 5: Factors that led to a more costly or lengthy network deployment with respect to access to existing physical infrastructure.

67% of respondents indicate that current provisions on high-speed-ready in-building physical infrastructure as provided in the Directive have had at least some relevance in facilitating the deployment of electronic communications networks.

More than two thirds of respondents consider that coordination of civil works between electronic communications networks (71%) or with transport networks (including railways, roads, ports and airports) (68%) and electricity networks (including public lightning) (67%) would have a certain degree of relevance for the deployment of electronic communications networks, while more than half of respondents also indicated gas, water and heating networks.

Fig.6 Relevance of coordination of civil works between electronic communications networks and other types of networks.

Transparency measures

As regards minimum information concerning physical infrastructure that should be available to operators seeking to deploy electronic communications networks beyond that specified in Article 4(1) of the Directive, 74% of respondents indicate georeferenced location and/or route and 40% of respondents indicate total and spare capacity to host network elements (e.g. nr. of ducts, m2 of available space).

66% and 22% of respondents indicate, respectively, a unique information repository (populated by network operators and public bodies) and federation of existing information repositories (of different network operators and/or public bodies) as best mechanisms for ensuring the most appropriate and efficient access to relevant information regarding existing physical infrastructure and planned civil works.

More than 60% of respondents consider the information provided in Fig. 7 to be relevant to facilitate network deployment if the information was constantly updated through the Single Information Point.

Fig. 7: Relevance of availability of constantly updated information through the Single Information Points to facilitate network deployment.

Permit granting procedures

As regards factors that negatively impact the complexity and length of permit granting procedures to deploy or upgrade electronic communications networks, more than three quarters of respondents point towards the lack of coordination between the various authorities competent for granting permits (80%), the multiplicity of permits needed for electronic communications network deployment (79%), the lack of electronic means/procedures for permit applications and the non-respect of the deadline to grant all electronic communications network deployment related permits, including those for rights of way (75%).

As regards potential measures for streamlining the permit granting procedures to roll-out electronic communications networks, the respondents indicate (see Fig.8): the availability of an integrated permit granting procedure that encompasses all different procedures of each of the competent authorities involved and of the possibility to submit permit applications by electronic means (93%); a single entry point (one-stop-shop), acting as an intermediary, routing permit applications to any competent authority (national, regional or local) (89%); coordination and monitoring by a single body (or set of bodies) of permit granting procedures by all the authorities’ in charge (62%); the harmonization of permit procedures at Member State level (75%) or at EU level (59%) and the centralisation of the competence for all permits in one authority within the Member State (58%).

Fig 8: Potential measures for streamlining the permit granting procedures to roll-out electronic communications networks.

Environmental impact of electronic communications networks

Respondents acknowledge that the deployment of fixed networks (37%), the operation of fixed networks (35%), the deployment of mobile/wireless networks (31%), and the operation of mobile/wireless networks (40%) could have a moderately or more significant negative impact on the environment, in particular due to emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

72% of respondents consider that the manufacturing of the equipment, materials used and logistics would contribute to the environmental impact resulting from the deployment of electronic communications networks, while 58% and 56% indicated, respectively, the deployment techniques (e.g. type of trenching) and the type of networks (e.g. fixed or wireless/mobile) as contributing factors.

Governance, enforcement and legal instrument

In general, while a minority of electronic communications network operators consider the dispute resolution system to be effective, the view of public authorities is in general much more positive.

More than half (53%) of respondents agree that setting rules on apportioning of costs (in case of coordination of civil works) would guarantee a satisfactory dispute resolution process (53% of business associations, 39% of company/business organisations and 37% of public authorities), while 44% consider that this would be ensured by imposing penalties on the dispute resolution body if resolution is not issued within the deadline (35% of business associations, 46% of company/business organisations and only 6% of public authorities that responded to the relevant question).

47% of respondents consider appropriate the choice of a directive as a legal instrument to regulate the measures to reduce the cost of deploying electronic communications networks, while 26% of respondents consider it inappropriate (of which 85% were network operators/associations and 5% public authorities). For the review, 47% of respondents are in favour of using a directive with minimum harmonization (similar to the current Directive); 39% of using a regulation as legal instrument and 25% of using a directive with maximum harmonization.

Next steps

The Commission will carry out a deeper analysis of the replies. The assessment of the replies, together with additional input received from other consultation activities and sources, will feed into the evaluation of the implementation of the Directive, and the preparation of the impact assessment and the revised legislative proposal. 

Factual summary report & contributions to the consultation

Download the Broadband Cost Reduction Directive factual summary report (.pdf).

Consult the individual contributions from respondents on 'Have your say' and download additional contributions from Bundesregierung (.pdf), ECTA (.pdf) and CETIN (.pdf)