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The ENGAGE common response to

‘Reduce the Cost of Rolling Out Rolling Out High Speed Communication Infrastructure in Europe’

Introduction: The Digital Agenda of Europe states that 100% of European households should have 30Mbits/s internet connection by 2013 and 50% with 100Mbits/s by 2020. This however requires huge investment all over Europe and therefore we need to know the different ways of cutting the set up costs of new networks. This problem has also been recognised by the EC, and for this reason they announced the holding of a public consultation in Spring 2012.

The EC was particularly seeking views on obstacles to investment in broadband infrastructure; ways of improving the use of current infrastructure; coordination of civil engineering works; measures to increase coordination between competent authorities and simplifying permit procedures, and 'readiness' of new buildings for high speed internet infrastructure.

The twelve partners of the ENGAGE project unanimously agreed to contribute to and prepare a common response, reflecting the wider European situation, which would also serve as a key tool in developing local project outputs such as the implementations plans, together with contributing to our European White Paper. In addition the common response would act as a key project communication tool, showing partner staff, local stakeholders and European officials the value of both the ENGAGE and partnership working, and importantly a real common product.  Note:  almost 100 other responses were delivered to the EC.

The key points of the ENGAGE response:

Infrastructure sharing with utility companies is seen as important tool by ENGAGE partners. However, it requires co-ordination by local authorities and common rules or even a regulatory framework. But when done successfully, it has the potential to boost the development of HSB and create competition as well as significant savings in time and money in civil works. It could also lead to the development of economic arteries and neutral and open networks. The most natural partners are other telecom operators and electricity companies, due to the same kind of infrastructure. Trading is one possible form of cooperation; Telecom operators can trade fibres or connections and utility companies can do trading between ducts and HSB connections.

Unfortunately there are bottlenecks such as absence of technical information, annual licence fees, legal constrictions and administrative bureaucracy, lack of local co-ordination and ownership of private companies, which makes them reluctant to co-operate, e.g. for safety reasons. Also fibre networks are usually closed and it’s forbidden to carry 3rd parties’ traffic.

Mapping , transparency and permitting:  was felt to be extremely important by ENGAGE. Besides economic benefits mapping gives important information for local authorities to improve coverage and co-ordinate demands. It also ensures consistency of service, prevents problems such as digging up wrong cables and helps to optimize management of energy supply, transport and waste management.

Transparency and co-ordination of civil works should be mandatory for public bodies and rewarded for private investors. The partners identified good practices in transparency such as construction atlases and regular meetings among different telecom and utility companies.

In terms of permitting, the partners had various different permitting models. But it was agreed that there are ways to improve the process such as having uniform contact partners, increasing integration and incorporation of new technologies, establishing eServices such as online forms and requesting the use of multi-technical solutions in the construction works.

Readiness of new buildings
Already some partners have national legislation stating how to guarantee adequate in-building solutions in terms of HSB.  Most suitable and cost effective ways to ensure it are standardized in-house wiring requirements with enough telecom outlets in rooms and having all households equipped with neutral communication boxes such as media converters.

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