The European Commission wants to find out how it can reduce the cost of rolling out super-fast broadband by cutting out "stupid costs and duplication" in engineering works.
On Friday, digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes opened a public consulation to identify the best way to save on installing new infrastructure for high-speed broadband in the EU, one of the aims of the Connecting Europe push launched in October.
As much as 80 percent of the installation cost for super-fast broadband goes on civil engineering works, such as digging up roads and putting in ducts to carry fibre, according to Kroes. However, much of this work is duplicated, with different utilities such as electricity companies and telecoms providers sometimes separately drilling into the same bit of road, Kroes said in a blog post in March.
"We need to cut the engineering costs of rolling out broadband networks if we want to spread faster broadband across Europe," the commissioner said in a statement on Friday. "We need to test practical ideas on how to cut costs and how to make it easier to access, re-use and share this infrastructure."
The consultation, which runs until 20 July, is open to all interested parties, such as telecoms and utilities companies, public authorities and individual consumers. It invites views on issues such as potential obstacles to investing in infrastructure, the co-ordination of civil engineering works and ways that the existing infrastructure could be used better.
We need to cut the engineering costs of rolling out broadband networks if we want to spread faster broadband across Europe.– Neelie Kroes
Last year, the Commission proposed spending €7bn (£5.7bn) on infrastructure for the deployment of high-speed broadband across member states, with a further €50bn or more to come from the private and public sectors. It envisions total funding of €270bn will be required to make its plans reality.
Kroes believes finding ways to be more efficient, such as making the required work permissions easier, could save up to one quarter of infrastructure spending, according to her spokesman.
"Regulation and public funding have a role to play, but there may be an even bigger role for actions that get rid of red tape," he said in a statement. "That is a simple strategy, yet a very ambitious and difficult one. Simple because we know we can cut investment costs by 25 percent, if we can find ways to stop stupid costs and duplication in the planning and civil engineering aspects of rolling-out broadband networks."
However, he added that the task is challenging because government departments have dragged their feet and lack co-ordination over the best way to cut back on costs.
"[It's] hard because this involves many types of companies — not just ICT or telecoms — and many layers of government from local councils upward, and no serious co-ordinated effort to achieve these savings has been made up to now," he said.