The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications hopes to announce two support measures for the development of rural Internet connections soon. €6 million will be used to create a new last-mile project, €9 million will be used to support people to get to the room from the mast or cable of the Internet.
In 2018, Elektrilevi received €20 million to bring optical cable needed for high-speed internet to 40,000 users, which will last for a further three years.
Last week, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications presented a draft regulation that would provide another €6 million for last-mile projects. If bringing the cable to one user would cost the same as in the case of the Elektrilevi project, another 12,000 consumers would benefit from the support.
Raigo Iling, adviser of the ministry's Communications Department, said this calculation is still optimistic.
"The further we go to sparsely populated areas, the more [financial] support per address needs to be paid. These distances are just getting bigger. The electricity distribution project got a lot of flexibility to choose the simpler rural areas where there is a permanent connection. Every next step will definitely be more expensive," said Iling.
It is likely that the subsidized telecommunications companies will be announced before the end of this year. There is time to use the support until the end of October next year. However, unlike the previous project, the last mile money is not given to only one company. The maximum amount one company can receive is €2.5 million. This means the grant must be shared between at least three companies.
This change has been implemented as Iling said several smaller companies in the past, who know the areas well, have expressed an interest in the scheme. With the support, companies need to create opportunities to connect to high-speed Internet.
A separate question is how many people are willing to pay a deductible of €200 to be connected to the network.
Elektrilevi has already noticed that unexpectedly few people in southern Estonia want a fiber optic connection. Among other things, another measure, the €9 million, should come to the rescue here.
"€300 can be used to join an access network that can provide speeds of 30 megabits per second. It can be a cable network, but you can also join a wireless network. Here we are thinking of a fixed air connection. Support will be provided for the purchase of broadband terminal equipment and, where appropriate, the installation of receiving antennas," he said.
If the fiber optic network must provide a download speed of at least 100 megabits, then connection support can also be used to connect at a lower speed.
According to Iling, lower speeds were set just to support connection to the internet by wifi. At the same time, Iling confirms that the plan does not give up on bringing fiber optic cable to as many homes as possible. Consideration is already being given to how to use the money for the next budget period.
"I think it can be said that out of the current €20 million and €15 million, more is coming from the development of fixed networks as well as the development of 5G corridors and 5G regions."
Editor: Helen Wright