BEREC recommends considering a more significant role for NRAs in the application of State aid rule

11 February 2022

BEREC recommends making consultations with national regulatory authorities (NRAs) mandatory in the design of State aid measures, in its response to the public consultation on the draft revised European Commission’s (EC) Guidelines on State aid for broadband networks. BEREC believes that dispute settlement on access products, conditions and pricing regarding State aid should be mandated to the NRAs. Member States should ensure that the NRAs are provided with sufficient resources and competencies.

BEREC supports the approach adopted by the Commission, i.e. the improvement of the Guidelines in order to reflect technological and market developments to best accompany the necessary investments in the coming years in a manner compatible with the internal market and the achievement of the connectivity objectives for 2030.

Subsidiary instruments
BEREC strongly supports the EC’s connectivity targets and the frameworks established to facilitate private investments in the roll-out of broadband networks and, therefore, to contribute to the achievement of these targets. BEREC emphasizes that State aid interventions should be clearly regarded as subsidiary instruments, for example when private investments are insufficient to meet end users’ connectivity needs. Annemarie Sipkes, BEREC Chair 2022 comments: “Consistent application of the various instruments available is essential to achieve Europe’s ambitious connectivity goals in 2030”.
BEREC considers that the market definition must not preclude a Member State from the possibility to combine fixed, mobile and backhaul networks in a single State aid scheme. For instance, this prevents mobile networks from being excluded per se when addressing a lack of fixed ultra-fast access network coverage in remote rural areas.

Broadband maps
BEREC also explains that the European Electronic Communications Code provides a sound legal framework to support broadband maps, including those needed for State aid. In BEREC’s view, it is important that Member States make full use of the legal tools available to help with data collection. A single broadband map should be promoted to enable the mapping tasks to be carried out efficaciously and to avoid legal uncertainties, BEREC states.

BEREC suggests that, for the purpose of legal certainty, the final Guidelines provide for an appropriate transition period to allow ongoing projects to be finalised under the current regime.
BEREC’s input is based on the specific experiences of national regulatory authorities, when applying State aid rules for broadband networks and in sectoral regulation such as market analysis, wholesale access products and pricing principles.