Regional satellite broadband policy approach – agreed by the European Commission
BRESAT has put forward two broadband gap policy options to the Commission. The ‘voucher’ and the voucher-plus’ approach. The Commission has accepted these and these are now being incorporated in new Intereg and other structural fund operational programmes
Both the voucher and voucher-plus schemes are what we economists call ‘demand-side’ approaches, in that they focus on stimulating and supporting demand for satellite broadband from households and businesses in areas with either no or poor terrestrial broadband.
This is achieved through Governments/ Regional authorities setting up voucher-scheme programmes which subsidise connection charges and in some cases, subsidise monthly tariffs for an initial period. The schemes are technology-neutral but it is thought that satellite broadband is likely to be one of the principal tecnology solutions available.
Traditionally, most regional broadband policy has focused on supply-side initiatives designed to support the deployment of terrestrial broadband network and services by suppliers.
Demand-side initiatives (such as voucher schemes) are relatively new. Governments increasingly favour them because they tend to be much lower cost, they are much less likely to give rise to competition and state aid issues, and because they do appear to work, really well.
Voucher schemes have been used to help address broadband gaps in both remote rural areas but also in cities and urban areas. The UK’s recent super connected cities voucher scheme, focused initially on 22 UK cities, appeared to be very successful (Adroit Economics undertook a survey of firms using the scheme across London for the Greater London Authority…see below for details)
BRESAT’s brief was to consider all broadband technologies, of which satellite is one technology. The European Commission however realised that one of the main focuses of BRESAT would inevitably include satellite broadband, either as an interim or a longer term technology, particularly for the most remote and excluded areas that are thought unlikely to benefit from terrestrial broadband by 2020. One of the Commission’s objectives was to raise the profile of satellite broadband as one of the solutions available within the broadband technology mix. Many policy makers and many broadband customers are either not aware of satellite broadband or have misconceptions about its price and quality. We are advised by the industry that today’s satellite broadband services typically offer up to 20 Mbps download speed at tariffs broadly similar to many terrestrial services (see the EC Sabre website for a fuller technical discussion of satellite broadband capabilities)
Some countries/ regions have used satellite broadband as a stepping stone e.g. Cyprus, which promoted satellite broadband across the country, to get people on line, to stimulate demand, paving the way for subsequent promotion of terrestrial broadband deployment
Satellite broadband has also been adopted as a viable long term broadband technology by some countries – most notably the USA and Australia for example…both countired have advanced economies but activitity is spread over very large land areas, often remote, which are not always easy to serve with terrestrial broadband