Europe's Digital Agenda Commissioner on Tuesday proposed a new law aimed at making broadband rollout cheaper and easier.
The new regulation could save up to ¬60 billion (US$77.8 billion) on the overall cost of deploying fast broadband by cutting red tape and giving telcos better information about existing infrastructure, according to European Commission estimates. According to the Commission, civil engineering, such as the digging up of roads to lay fiber, accounts for up to 80 percent of the cost of deploying high-speed networks.
The draft law includes giving telcos access to infrastructure such as ducts, conduits, manholes, cabinets, poles and masts on fair and reasonable terms and conditions. It would also introduce more transparency for planned civil engineering works.
The proposed law would also require all new buildings to have mini-ducts installed so that they are ready for high-speed Internet. Older buildings undergoing major reconstruction would also have to be made broadband-ready.
"It's common sense: It's what citizens want and it's a good property investment. After all, these days you wouldn't buy a new house or office that didn't have electricity or running water," said Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes, when presenting the proposed law.
Local authorities would have to grant or refuse permits, especially for masts and antennas within six months by default.
Although E.U. regulations must be transposed into law in each E.U. member state, national authorities have some flexibility about how they implement them.
But Kroes also wants to push, as she puts it, "broadband for all."
"The high cost of building new broadband infrastructure and relatively low density of demand in isolated and remote places, has sometimes deterred telecom companies from investing," she said.
"These draft E.U. rules will lower investment costs, meaning that more companies can roll out broadband at a better price, increasing competition. This applies to alternative and incumbent operators -- who will both be able to cut costs by installing broadband through existing infrastructure," Kroes said.
The proposals were widely welcomed by telcoms operators.
ETNO, which represents the leading investors in high speed broadband networks, said it supported the move but called for "further reforms of the overall regulatory landscape aiming at targeting regulation to uncompetitive areas and real bottlenecks and giving operators more flexibility to develop new business models."
The draft law must now be approved by the European Parliament and the European Council, but Kroes said she hoped it would be finalized in 2014.