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Broadband: Main financing tools

The European Commission has a range of financing tools for high-speed broadband development projects across the EU.

Broadband initiative of the District of Calw, Germany

The main financing tools for high-speed broadband development projects are revenue-based financing, private capital and financial markets, government-backed bank loan and bonds, public funds and bottom-up community financing.

Revenue-based financing

If the public authority chooses a public-run municipal network investment model, it generally receives revenue from wholesale dark fibre lease and/or transmission services. It may also receive revenue from retail infrastructure leases or connectivity (or network) fees depending on the business model in place. This can become a major financing source once the network is complete and companies, public bodies and end users start using it.

This source of financing only materialises once the core of the infrastructure is in place and services are offered over the network. It is therefore suitable to recover public sector funds, to accelerate infrastructure deployment or lower costs. To start a project, other financial sources are needed.

Private capital and financial markets

Financial markets can be accessed for investment funds that provide equity or debt financing as well as hybrid solutions (mezzanine funding). Investment funds seeking a stable return on investment and may focus on safe, tangible assets such as high-capacity broadband infrastructure:

  • banks, investment funds and private equity investors may be interested in providing early-stage financing, looking for a higher risk premium and an exit between 3 and 7 years once the business is established;
  • infrastructure funds, pension funds and other institutional investors may invest in established infrastructure from the above after 3-7 years and seek long term investment at lower interest rates.

Other sources, such as venture capital, are usually not used for investing in infrastructure as they focus on short-term, higher risk opportunities and demand high interest rates with early exit options.

Government-backed bank loan and bonds

Public authorities can secure their initial financing through soft or commercial-terms bank loans. For this to be sustainable, a valid business plan for the deployment project must be presented, in which medium- and long-term revenue exceed the negotiated loans including principal and interest.

Favourable interest rates in soft loans (obtained thanks to the government backing guarantee) should be treated as state aid. If it can be proved that the loan was received according to market conditions, the Market Economy Investor Principle (MEIP) applies.

Public funds

Public funds enable economic and social improvement and are available at local, regional and national government levels, as well as at EU level.

At EU level, the following funds are available:

The European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) which include:

The European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI) aims to mobilise private investment in projects that are strategically important for the EU.

The Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) and the European Investment Bank (EIB). The Connecting Europe Broadband Fund provides equity and quasi-equity to smaller-scale, higher-risk broadband projects, which do not have sufficient access to financing, in (under-served) suburban and rural areas.

Discover how to combine the European Structural and Investment Funds with EFSI. Moreover, EU Member States have established national broadband strategies and policies, financial instruments and dedicated funds for investment in high capacity broadband projects.

European Investment Project Portal (EIPP)

The European Investment Project Portal (EIPP) is the EU's online match-making portal enabling EU-based project promoters – public or private – to reach potential investors worldwide. EIPP enables project promoters based in the EU to reach potential investors worldwide and to boost the visibility of their projects to a large network of international investors. Investors looking for investment opportunities in broadband infrastructure are offered a broad choice of viable projects.

Bottom-up community financing

Communities can raise financial resources to support the deployment of high-capacity broadband infrastructure in their region. Typically, this takes place in community broadband projects, particularly in rural communities or clusters of such communities and smaller urban communities, usually with a strong urge for high-speed connectivity.

Generally, in bottom-up community financing, shares are sold to a community company, which either implements and runs the network itself or commissions this through suppliers. Citizens are often also asked for “pre contract agreements” to take high-speed internet services once the network is operational as part of the stock package.

It is recommended that EU Member States provide guidance on how local initiatives can manage bottom-up financing and how this can be matched with other financing tools.

Latest

European Commission joins forces to help bringing more broadband in rural areas

The European Commission together with the Member States have set up Broadband Competence Offices to advise local and regional authorities on ways to develop broadband, and help citizens and businesses get better internet. At the same time the Commission presented a 5 point toolkit on how to bring better broadband in rural areas of the EU.

Winners of the European Broadband Awards 2017

European Broadband Awards 2017 winners were announced at the Award Ceremony on 20 November. The European Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Crețu and Commissioner for Agriculture & Rural Development, Phil Hogan awarded the five winners in Brussels. The five projects were selected in five categories focusing on innovative models of financing, cost reduction, territorial cohesion, socio-economic impact and competition. These projects are exemplary projects for the other regions and organisations planning broadband rollout.

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Big Picture

Broadband project planning

The Broadband planning section, along with the Broadband investment guide aids municipalities and other entities in their planning of successful broadband development projects.

See Also

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Municipalities, municipal companies, joint ventures, and private companies can be involved in one, two or all three stages of broadband development.

Broadband: Plan definition

The key to successful regional broadband development lies in defining a plan that includes goals, collaborations, and specific needs and stakeholders.

Broadband: Action plan

Broadband project plans help you map infrastructure needs, plan financing and deployment, monitor progress, find stakeholders, make the right choices and more.

Broadband: Technology overview

An overview of different wired, wireless and upcoming broadband technologies and a description of their advantages, disadvantages and sustainability.

Broadband: Investment models

Investment models present interesting involvement opportunities for a public authority that engages in regional broadband development.

Broadband: State aid

State aid for broadband may be necessary in some places where the market does not provide the necessary infrastructure investment.

Broadband: Network and topology

A broadband network consists of geographical parts. The topology of a network describes how the different parts of a network are connected. The most relevant topologies for the backbone and area networks are tree topologies, ring topologies and meshed topologies. For the first...

Broadband: Choice of infrastructure

Broadband networks require different infrastructure types based on different logistic, economic or demographic conditions. Use the questions to help choose.

Broadband: Technology comparison

A comparison of broadband technologies presents features of each solution and helps decisions on the best solution for different regions.