European member states and other stakeholders have welcomed new rules for state aid for broadband networks.
The European Commission published the new guidelines last week. It said it had taken "an overwhelmingly favourable view" towards state aid for broadband deployment for rural and underserved areas. But it was "more critical" for state help where a competitive broadband infrastructure already existed.
The guidelines were to "foster a wide and rapid roll-out of broadband networks, while at the same time preserving the market dynamics and competition in a sector that is fully liberalised," it said.
They would also ensure that if private operators received state aid they would have to open their publicly funded network to third-party operators, it said.
The commission said it had earmarked €1.02bn via the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) for developing broadband internet in rural areas as part of the broader European economic recovery plan.
States would be able to apply for this money and add it to funds from local sources to invest in filling in urban "not-spots" and extending broadband to rural areas, it said.
The guidelines also allowed states to act indirectly to speed up fibre to the home (FTTH) deployments by ensuring that operators had fast and easy access to passive network elements such as ducts and street cabinets, said Karel Helsen, FTTH Council Europe president.
Helsen said the FTTH Council believed that market forces should deliver FTTH for the mass market. But it accepted that this would not work in some areas.
"Local governments and municipalities will have an important role to play in moving Europe towards a fibre future," he said.