The European Commission (EC) has approved Sweden’s rural broadband programme for the period 2014-2020, which sets out government plans to invest SEK3.25 billion (USD393 million) in subsidising high speed internet expansion across regions of the country considered commercially unviable. The funding pot comprises SEK1.93 billion in Swedish government grants and SEK1.32 billion in European Union (EU) funds, representing a doubling in overall funding compared to the previous national rural broadband programme. Sweden’s Broadband Forum (Bredbandsforum) announced that national regulation/legislation should enter force by October 2015 to support new regional broadband rollout proposals, with the first batch of new rural projects expected to be approved by county administrative boards by that date.
Separately, the Post and Telecom Agency (PTS) reported on its website that specific funding for broadband deployment in northern Sweden has been secured, totalling SEK600 million sourced from the EU’s regional fund. A maximum of 50% of a project’s costs may be claimed from the regional fund by companies and organisations building interurban networks in the three northernmost zones, meaning the total value of northern subsidised projects under the EU regional programme could reach SEK1.2 billion. The next call for proposals will open on 1 July.
In a related development, Bredbandsforum also reported that the Swedish government has adopted a national secretariat to support the country’s regional broadband coordinators, to be established by the PTS and Bredbandsforum’s existing secretariat. For 2015 the government has granted each of Sweden’s 21 counties SEK600,000 to pay for broadband project coordination alongside an approximate SEK2 million allocation for the PTS to maintain a national support function.
Another new report on the Bredbandsforum website says that only 15%-20% of detached homes in Sweden currently have access to fibre broadband, compared with roughly 80% of households in apartment buildings. A specific committee under the Forum – the Villa Group (Villagrupen) – is in the process of exploring various strategies to address this issue.