Reaching 100% Programme (R100) - State Aid: consultation

A State Aid public consultation to confirm eligible premises for public investment via the Reaching 100% Programme (R110) which is striving to extend the availability of NGA broadband infrastructure to deliver superfast broadband access to 100% of premises in Scotland.

3. State Aid Framework and Rules

This section provides a brief introduction to the State aid Framework for the purpose of informing responses to the public consultation. Respondents may wish to obtain their own professional/legal advice on the application of the State aid Framework and rules that relate to this proposal.

The European Commission has published 'EU Guidelines for the application of State aid rules in relation to the rapid deployment of broadband networks' (2013/C 25/01).[5]These guidelines summarise the principles of the Commission's policy in applying the State aid rules of the Treaty to measures that support the deployment of broadband networks, and seek to ensure that State aid schemes for broadband are well-designed so that they target market failures and minimise negative effects on competition.

The guidelines require public interventions to be targeted so as to limit the risk of crowding out private investments, of altering commercial investment incentives and ultimately of distorting competition.

Planned public interventions can seek State aid approval directly from the Commission, or (as is the case with this proposal) seek clearance under a national scheme which has been pre-approved by the Commission.

Projects under the 2016 NBS will need to demonstrate their State aid compliance (in accordance with the terms of the scheme) in order to receive clearance from BDUK's National Competence Centre.

The Commission's guidelines distinguish between two types of broadband networks, namely basic broadband and NGA networks.

Basic broadband networks are generally those based on currently widely-deployed technologies such as fixed wired telephony networks (using ADSL/ADSL2+ technologies), non-enhanced cable TV networks (eg DOCSIS 2.0), mobile networks (2G/3G (UMTS)), some fixed wireless access (FWA) networks, and satellite networks.

NGA networks rely wholly or partly on optical elements (optical fibre) and are capable of delivering an enhanced broadband capability compared to existing basic broadband networks. Current qualifying NGA technologies are fibre-based networks (FTTx), advanced upgraded cable networks (DOCSIS 3.0) and certain advanced wireless access networks capable of delivering reliable high speeds.

Guidance on the characteristics of qualifying NGA technologies is available from BDUK.[6]

The Commission's guidelines also require that public intervention should be able to ensure a 'step change' in broadband availability. This is demonstrated by:

  • Significant new investments in the broadband network;
  • The new infrastructure brings significant new capabilities to the market in terms of broadband service availability and capacity, speeds and competition[7];

The 'step change' in broadband availability shall be compared to that of existing as well as concretely planned networks.

The Commission's guidelines also distinguish between geographic areas on the basis of their existing or planned broadband infrastructure:

  • 'White' areas are those in which there is no qualifying broadband infrastructure and none is likely to be developed within 3 years;
  • 'Grey' areas are those where only one network is present or is to be deployed within the coming 3 years; and
  • 'Black' areas are those where at least two networks of different operators exist or will be deployed in the coming 3 years.

This geographic mapping of White/Grey/Black areas is carried out separately in relation to basic broadband and NGA networks. NGA networks are mapped on the basis that, amongst other things, they have substantially higher upload speeds (compared to basic broadband networks)[8] and are able to deliver broadband services at an access (download) speed of more than 30Mbps.

Public intervention can only take place in white NGA areas under the 2016 NBS. White NGA areas are those in which there are no NGA networks and none is likely to be developed within the next 3 years.



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