EC and EIB announce €500m broadband fund

13 December 2016 | James Pearce

The European Commission (EC) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) have launched a €500 million investment fund aimed at improving broadband infrastructure across the EU.

The money pot, called the Connecting Europe Broadband Fund, will target areas currently lacking in high capacity infrastructure between 2017 and 2021.

So far, German development bank KfW Bankengruppe, Italy’s Cass Depositi e Prestiti, and French institution Caisee de depots et consignations, have all agreed to invest, along with the EC itself which will put forward €100 million from the Connected Europe Facility.

The fund is expected to hit at least the €500 million mark during the first funding round, before investments can start being made from the fund.

The Fund will focus on between seven and 12 projects, investing between €1 million and €30 million in each between 2017 and 2021. The CEBF will be managed by Cube Infrastructure Managers, who will identify the projects.

The Commission said the CEBF is expected to unlock more than €1 billion for investment in broadband deployment across Europe, to the benefit of more than 20 countries by 2021.

Günther H. Oettinger, commissioner for digital economy and society, said: "I am grateful to our financial partners for the establishment of this broadband Fund.

“It is an important development for smart and efficient funding of broadband projects, especially in underserved areas, in line with the spirit and the letter of the Investment Plan. It is a great step towards a European Gigabit Society for all."

In July, the European Union laid out plans to connect every citizen in Europe with at least 100Mbps broadband speeds by 2025.

The amount the EC will invest will depend on the size of the project. For example, projects that are €150 million or less will be eligible for investments between €1 million and €30 million.

“High-speed internet is fundamental to the success and development of businesses,” said EIB president Werner Hoyer. “Until today, smaller-scale broadband projects did not have easy access to funding and EU financial instruments did not exist. 

“Consequently, projects in less populated or rural areas, where purely private-led initiatives may not see the economic benefits of deploying broadband networks, were difficult to implement. The new fund will help bridge this market gap, and I am glad that the EU Bank is part of this joint initiative.”