HomeAccessA missed opportunity: passing the EU’s Gigabit Infra Act

    A missed opportunity: passing the EU’s Gigabit Infra Act


    Brussels can tick the box, but it could and should have been so much better

    The Gigabit Infrastructure Act, hailed by Brussels as a flagship piece of legislation for the European Union and the wider world, is finally about to pass into law. It replaces the 2014 broadband cost-reducing directive (BCRD).

    Following the usual rigamarole, it received the nod from the European Council after the European Parliament voted in its favour. It is now in the process of being published in the Official Journal and officially becomes law three days after that is completed. However, it will not be enforceable for another 18 months, taking us to late 2025, and even then, not all of it will be binding.

    Tight timeline

    This doesn’t give much time for it to help the EU to hit its ambitious 2030 targets regarding the penetration of fast network coverage. The goal is full fixed gigabit coverage by 2030 and 5G networks in all populated areas by 2030.

    The EU’s State of the Digital Decade report published last September showed that fibre networks are available to just over half (56%) of households. 5G covers 81% of urban populations but this falls to 51% for rural dwellers.

    The EU reckons will cost €200 billion collectively for operators to hit those targets.

    The Act is designed to speed up the process for operators in obtaining permission to build infrastructure on landlords’ property. Already the terms have been diluted – example, with various exemptions, voluntary elements and interim steps introduced – to get it passed into law and the intra-EU prices caps that should expire on 14 May will now be in place until 30 June 2032.

    For more information, see this detailed analysis.

    Not a great track record

    An attempt by the British government to smooth the way for operators building out infrastructure in the UK achieved little – the updated Electronic Communications Code was published in 2017. The intention had been to make gaining permissions easier and make the rental fees that land and property owners could charge operators reasonable. Naturally, the landowners didn’t always agree with what the operators thought was reasonable, andVodafone lost a landmark case in 2020.

    The UK government has just had another go at addressing part of the issue – access to multi-tenancy buildings.

    So yes, after much toing and froing the current Commission has got the legislation over the line before its term ends later this year but how much it will achieve and when is not clear.