Just nu pågår en omfattande diskussion inom EU om utbyggnaden av fibernät och hur denna ska utformas. Ska de stora telekomföretagen få monopol på den digitala infrastrukturen eller ska man hitta andra modeller som stödjer konkurrens och mångfald av aktörer. Sveriges Kommuner och Landsting och STOKAB arrangerade tillsammans seminariet ”Maximizing fibre infrastructure investment in Europe” i Bryssel under onsdagen. Jag var med på konferensen och talade om våra erfarenheter från Sverige och Stockholm. Modellen som baseras på att bredband betraktas som en grundläggande infrastruktur som tillhandahålls öppet och på lika villkor har tjänat Stockholm väl de senaste 20 åren. Jag bifogar här min inledning på konferensen och en länk till inspelningen av hela konferensen. Jag rekommenderar att titta på den även om det tar en stund. Det är intressant att lyssna på talare som ger olika perspektiv, från kommissionen, från EU-parlamentet, hur det ser ut i andra länder mm. Den ger en bra överblick över knäckfrågorna när det gäller en av de viktigaste frågorna för konkurrenskraft och tillväxt just nu, villkoren för och utbyggnaden av den digitala infrastrukturen inom EU.
My name is Ulla Hamilton, member of the Committee for Growth and Regional Development at Swedish Association of Local Authorities and former – during the last eight years – vice Mayor of the City of Stockholm. On behalf of the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions and The City of Stockholm IT Infrastructure Company Stokab, I would like to welcome you to this seminar. We hope that you will take this opportunity to discuss how regions and municipalities can foster fibre deployment in order to stimulate competition on the service level.
The digital evolution creates great opportunities for our society. We can do much more in less time – the digitalization simplifies our everyday life. It can strengthen the international competitiveness of companies and support the development of innovative services in the public sector.
At the same time, it requires a more effective IT-Infrastructure. Access to superfast communication for people and companies at reasonable price levels is today crusial for municipalities and regions possibilities to grow and develop. It also has great impact re companies’ decisions where to locate their business. A connected society can offer stronger regional development, increased growth and sustainability.
This is not only an issue for the telecom sector, but for the society as a whole and thereby a responsibility for the EU, the member states, regions and municipalities.
In Sweden, municipalities have taken responsibility to deploy open fibre networks, which companies are invited to use, on equal and non-discriminatory conditions. Basically this “Swedish model”, is about providing an infrastructure in the same way as we, as a country, provide roads and railways to our citizens and businesses – a public utility. The model allows companies to freely compete in providing the citizens with the best services to the lowest possible price.
Sweden has around 170 municipal fibre networks. Those municipality owned networks, offers individual companies, on equal terms, access to a modern communication infrastructure. Private network operators can through this infrastructure create their own solutions and applications, such as Internet, television and telephone products that are then offered to companies and households.
The major part of the investments in fibre infrastructure in Sweden are made by the municipalities and by the SMP (Telia Sonera). The municipal networks are financially viable and do not rely on any public support. The access fees to the networks are in an international comparison very competitive.
The Swedish broadband and digital services market is dynamic and caracterisied by competition. Our open networks have stimulated new company-entries on the market since they don´t have to invest heavily in infrastructure or depend on leasing the infrastructure from a competitor. The networks have for example contributed to Sweden’s world-class rollout of LTE network [4G] – the fastest available mobile technology of today. The prices on ultrafast broadband are also very low.
Retail broadband prices in municipalities with open networks are generally 20-30 % lower than in other parts of Sweden. This has also been an important driver for households to connect to the networks. Today, 5 out of 10 households have access to ultrafast broadband connections, allowing the households to stream media and television. The availability of infrastructure is driving demand and thus development of services. 60% of the consumers who have access to ultrafast broadband subscribes to a 100 Mbit connection. Swedes are leading in the use of high broadband speeds.
The deployment of the municipal networks has also been an enabler for cities and counties to provide distance learning, e-health solutions and other types of e-services to their citizens. Our main goal is to give municipalities opportunity to develop, using modern IT applications in the fields of healthcare, education and elderly care. They are facing great challenges in these areas and smart ICT solutions can help them to develop their services. And that requires extensive fibre networks.
Among Sweden’s municipal networks, “STOKAB” is the most renowned. Stokab, owned by the City of Stockholm, started in 1994. It was not obvious to all of us within the conservative party that the City should get engaged in this business – wouldn´t it risk damaging competition within the market? But we found, on the contrary, that the ownership of the open infrastructure was a key factor. We realized that in order to secure free and fair competition regarding services, the City should provide the market with an open, not subsidised, ICT infrastructure.
Today Stockholm ranks number 1 of 40 cities around the world in Ericsson Networked Society index. One of the main reasons for this is Stokab´s fibre network. (High quality access to both fixed and mobile broadband, thanks to extensive infrastructure rollouts). A study performed by the research institute Acreo, has shown that the socio economic return on Stokab´s network is at least three times the investment – benefits that will continue to grow and accumulate. And this has been accomplished without risking the taxpayer money.
I believe that securing and driving growth in today’s digitalized society relies on the existence of open fibre infrastructure that can serve the market on open and equal conditions. The municipalities’ investments in deploying open fibre networks have been blessed by the telecom industry. The private sector has seen that public owned open fibre networks have led to lower costs and have stimulated competition. Furthermore it will stimulate the investments and innovation in communication equipment and services
The European Union’s member states are at different stages of their NGA [Next Generation Access] rollout. The basic conditions for-, and pace of, – NGA roll out differs significantly. But the current development in Europe, where operators are becoming increasingly vertically integrated, in control of both infrastructure and services, is not, in our opinion, desirable. This development may lead to a monopolization, which would inhibit growth and competiveness throughout the EU. In a majority of European countries, it is expected that the incumbents shall provide the market with high-speed fibre networks. The incumbents originally built their [copper or coax] networks in order to supply their services and products to the end customer, but since then the marketplace has changed with the arrival of new technology and business models e g OTT (over the top players), which in turn, has put increasing requirements on regulatory efforts. We [SALAR], welcome a reform of the European Telecom Market and will emphasize the need that the Commission take in consideration the well-functioning municipal model during that process.
The Swedish example shows that public actors can be key players for broadband rollout. We hope that our model can inspire other municipalities and counties to define fibre for what it really is – a fundamental infrastructure in today’s modern society. European Union should support Member States, regions and municipalities in their efforts to deploy fibre. Because when enough fibre exists on open and equal terms – an market structure with a non-vertically integrated network – entry barriers on the service level and associated competition problems do not exist. This will create new conditions with cost-effective solutions for several entering operators, OTT-players and freedom of choice for the costumer. In short – A open market economy solution where we can all work together in fulfilling the objectives of the DAE (Digital Agenda of Europe) towards building a stronger Europe.
Thank you, and once again welcome.