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December 13, 2016

EU pledges €500 million for rural broadband in 20 countries

€500 million fund will aim to spread broadband to poorly served areas.

By Alexander Sword

The European Commission and European Investment Bank (EIB) are launching a new broadband infrastructure fund to roll out connectivity to poorly served areas.

The Connecting Europe Broadband Fund should be worth at least €500 million, with €100 million provided by the European Commission through the Connecting Europe Facility.

Investments will be made of between €1 million and €30 million for projects with total costs of €150 million or less. It is expected to drive further investments worth between €1 billion and €1.7 billion.

It will be launched in mid-2017. The aim is for the Fund to have invested in 20 countries by 2021, at a rate of 7 to 12 projects per year.

eu-broadbandThe fund will pool public investment with private funds with the banks KfW Bankengruppe, Cassa Depositi e Prestiti and Caisse des dépôts et consignations from Germany, Italy and France respectively expected to be anchor investors.

A fund manager, who will be appointed next year, will direct the investments according to a set of guidelines over a period of five years.

Günther H. Oettinger, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, said that the fund was “an important development for smart and efficient funding of broadband projects, especially in underserved areas, in line with the spirit and the letter of the Investment Plan. It is a great step towards a European Gigabit Society for all.”

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“High-speed internet is fundamental to the success and development of businesses,” said EIB President Werner Hoyer. “Until today, smaller-scale broadband projects did not have easy access to funding and EU financial instruments did not exist. Consequently, projects in less populated or rural areas, where purely private-led initiatives may not see the economic benefits of deploying broadband networks, were difficult to implement.

He said that the new fund would help to bridge this market gap.

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