The European Commission recently published a recommendation on a common Union toolbox for reducing the cost of deploying very high capacity networks and ensuring timely and investment friendly access to 5G radio spectrum in order to foster connectivity in support of economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

This recommendation gives guidance to Member States in the process of designing proposals for their recovery and resilience plans in the form of a toolbox based on best practices. The aim is to incentivise the timely deployment of very high capacity networks, including fibre and next-generation wireless networks. Member States are advised, in close cooperation with the Commission, to develop a set of best practices for the application of the Broadband Cost Reduction Directive (BCRD).

The aim is to reduce the costs of network deployment and facilitate the roll-out of very high capacity infrastructures, including fibre and 5G. In its report on the implementation of the BCRD, the Commission had identified several problems in terms of its effectiveness, including the fact that some optional measures are not being used to their full potential by Member States. 

Firstly, the Commission calls upon Member States to streamline permit granting procedures to:

facilitate compliance with the maximum deadline of four months for granting or refusing permits. In the absence of an explicit decision within the four-month period, Member States should consider tacit approval of the application;

simplify and streamline permit granting procedures, including setting up fast-track permit granting procedures and/or permit exemptions where appropriate, and defining the type of network deployments that could benefit from these;

provide operators with the right to submit, by electronic means via the single information point, applications for all the necessary permits required for civil works to deploy elements of very high capacity networks;

establish the single information point as a single-entry point for submitting applications for such civil works and enable it to play an active role in coordinating and monitoring permit granting procedures at all administrative levels.

In terms of costs of town planning permits, Member States should exchange and agree on best practices to ensure that fees charged for the granting of permits for civil works required to deploy very high capacity networks are objectively justified, transparent, non- discriminatory and proportionate to their intended purpose.

Secondly, Member States should develop appropriate best practices to improve transparency concerning physical infrastructure, so that operators can access more easily all relevant information on the infrastructure available in a certain area.

Thirdly, Member States should develop best practices for enabling operators to obtain access to physical infrastructure (including buildings and street furniture) controlled by public bodies. This is strengthened by article 57 of the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC) which stipulates that competent authorities shall not subject the deployment of small-area wireless access points to any individual town planning permit or other individual prior permits.

By 30 April 2021, each Member State should provide the Commission with a roadmap for national implementation of the toolbox.

With this recommendation, the European Commission is anticipating the review of the BCRD, which is scheduled for 2021. The telecoms sector has been calling for further measures to drive down costs of the roll-out of new networks. To this end, the Commission may further regulate the costs of town planning permits for rights of way, reinstatement and degeneration of road pavements.

For further information contact Feyo Sickinghe