10.55 Europe/London, September 28, 2011 By Julian Clover
Commissioner Neelie Kroes (right) with Cable Europe's Caroline van Weede

Neelie Kroes, Commissioner for Europe’s Digital Agenda, has said cable has an important role to play in reaching the European Commission’s target of 100 Mbps broadband connections for half of Europe’s citizens.
In an interview for trade association Cable Europe, Kroes said that by competing head on with incumbent operators, cable increases the sense of urgency for other players to deploy next-generation network infrastructure, such as fibre.
“This is why I hope that efforts to upgrade cable networks to provide high-speed broadband keep on making rapid progress, also beyond the existing reach of cable networks. In addition, should cable companies with upgraded networks decide to engage in greater price leadership, adding stronger competitive pressure on traditional telecoms networks, we would obviously welcome that.”
Under the European Digital Agenda all Europeans would have access to basic broadband by 2013 with everyone to have at least 30Mbps connections by 2020 and for half of European households to subscribe to bandwidth above 100Mbps by 2020.
“The Commission estimates that achieving the 2020 target will require investment of up to €300 billion and this estimate is supported by the analysis of the European Investment Bank. Europe is facing difficult financial conditions as a consequence of recession and it will not be easy to mobilise such funds,” said Kroes.
At the core of the Commission’s regulatory roadmap is the the regulatory framework for e-communications, revised by the Commission in 2009 and complemented by the 2010 Recommendation on regulated access to Next Generation Access Networks. Kroes said the framework for next generation access should now be repeated for next generation infrastructure, but highlighted the high costs involved. “Digital Agenda strategy will seek to encourage investment by cutting the costs of infrastructure investment. The Commission is also working with the European Investment Bank to develop innovative financial instruments to support broadband investment.
Kroes acknowledged that even with private investment boosted hard to reach rural communities would still be left without adequate coverage and would require public support. The Commission is currently having a public consultation to see if the State aid rules for broadband need to be revised in the light of rapid market developments.