IT minister confirms conditions for "last mile" internet connections ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Internet cables.
Internet cables. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Minister of Foreign Trade and IT Raul Siem (EKRE) has signed orders for measures for the so-called "last mile" supporting the establishment of fixed fast internet access in rural areas.

The government has allocated additional €15 million for the said purpose from the COVID-19 supplementary budget, according to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications.

The allocation will be split into two support measures, the minister of foreign trade and IT said.

"One of them is meant as investment support for telecommunication companies for building a fast internet access network, and the other is a so-called social measure supporting consumers in getting a fast internet connection and, if needed, in purchasing devices to make sure that fast internet indeed reaches people homes from the access grid," Siem said.

The government previously supported the construction of the fast internet access grid with €20 million in 2018. The implementation of the project lasts until 2023 and will bring the option of joining a fiber-optic communication network to 40,016 households.

Close to 65,000 households used all year round are still without access to a fast internet grid, which is why investments in the field are continuously required, Siem said.

The supplementary instruments of both measures will be targeted at so-called white areas where high-speed internet connection is not available today and would otherwise not be in the near future.

"We have identified the white areas in the course of public consultations and the goal is to bring the option of joining [a fast internet grid] to as many families and businesses as possible," the minister said.

The first measure totals €6 million and provides investment support to telecommunications companies for the construction of a next-generation electronic communications access network, which would enable end-users in as many target areas as possible to use high-speed connections of at least 100 megabit per second. 

The Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority will organize a public procurement to select support recipients. Support recipients will be required to create an option for joining an access network at as many addresses on the so-called white area as possible by October 31, 2021.

"These €6 million additional will help create an option to join an [internet access network] at an estimated 10,000 addresses, which would otherwise have been left out of the project started in 2018," Siem said. 

The second measure together with €9 million is aimed at reimbursing end-users for the costs of connecting to cable or wireless fixed high-speed networks. The maximum amount of support is 300 euros per access network termination point.

The Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority will announce the start of receipt of applications via both its website and the media. Applications are accepted until November 30, 2020. 

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Editor: Helen Wright

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