EU approves £4.9m public funding for Birmingham broadband

The European Commission has approved €6 million (£4.9 million) of UK public funding for an ultrafast broadband network to be built in Birmingham.

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The European Commission has approved €6 million (£4.9 million) of UK public funding for an ultrafast broadband network to be built in Birmingham.

Two areas of Birmingham, where private operators have no or very limited investment plans in the next three years, are the focus of the funding.

The proposed state aid was granted because following an examination of the city’s ultrafast broadband plans, the EC believed that it “will be genuinely open to all operators and will therefore promote competition”.

Joaquín Almunia, Commission VP in charge of competition policy, said: “If [ultrafast broadband] networks are built with the help of taxpayers’ money, it is important to ensure thriving competition on the subsidised networks, so that local businesses and citizens can benefit from continuously improving broadband services at competitive prices.”

Birmingham’s broadband network plans exceeded many of the requirements of the EU Broadband Guidelines, the EC said.

For example, open access to the network will be granted for at least 25 years for alternative operators, whereas the guidelines specify just seven years. In addition, the network will be operated on a wholesale basis, to ensure more competition at retail level.

Furthermore, all possible wholesale access products will be offered to third-party operators, including dark fibre.

The funding for Birmingham is from the £100 million pot that the government has previously announced for developing broadband networks in large cities. Other UK cities to benefit from the investment include Belfast, Bradford, Bristol, London, Cardiff and Edinburgh.