ANNOUNCEMENT 14 Jun 2021
In June 2021, the European Commission approved a modification to the Spanish financial grant scheme to support Next-Generation-Access (NGA) operators.
NUMBER OF INTERVENTIONS
SA.62696 RRF - Extension of Broadband Scheme for NGA White and Grey Areas. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/competition/elojade/isef/case_details.cfm?proc_code=3_SA_62696
European Commission’s Decision. Subject: Subject: State Aid SA.62696 (2021/N) – Spain - RRF - Extension of Broadband Scheme for NGA White and Grey Areas. 19/07/2021. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/competition/state_aid/cases1/202132/294532_2305605_101_2.pdf
Official Journal of the European Union, EUR-Lex. 13/08/2021. Available at: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=uriserv%3AOJ.C_.2021.327.01.0001.01.ENG&toc=OJ%3AC%3A2021%3A327%3ATOC
On 14 June 2021, the EU approved a modification of a Spanish financial grant scheme to support internet network operators. The modification increases the budget by EUR 200 million (approx. USD 238.2 million) and extends the scheme until 31 December 2024. Notably, with the budget increase and time horizon extension of the scheme, the intensity support has reduced when compared to the original scheme, approved in December 2019 under SA.53925 (see related state act). In particular, accounting for the same time span of validity of the extended scheme (around 43 months), the overall budget has been reduced from EUR 464.1 (USD 552.7) million to EUR 402.3 (USD 479.2) million.
The scheme aims to extend the coverage of telecommunications and internet services to rural areas. For this, the Spanish government provides financial grants to cover up to 100% of eligible projects in grey and white areas (defined as areas where there are no Next-Generation-Access networks).
According to the Decision, the budget increase was made with funds of the Recovery and Resilience Facility and the approved Spanish national recovery plan (see related state act).
In this context, the European Commission’s Decision highlighted: “The markets for electronic communications services are open to competition between operators and service providers, which generally engage in activities that are subject to competition and trade between the Member States. By favouring certain operators and service providers, the notified measure is therefore liable to distort competition”.
Regardless, the Commission approved the state aid without raising objections, concluding that the measure “is compatible with the internal market pursuant to Article 107(3)(c) of the TFEU".
A state act in the GTA database is assessed solely in terms of the extent to which its implementation affects foreign commercial interests. On this metric, the investment support granted here is discriminatory.