The involvement of utilities in the development of broadband infrastructure: A comparison of EU case studies

Paolo Gerli*, Marlies Van der Wee, Sofie Verbrugge, Jason Whalley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
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Energy companies and other utility providers have been often involved in the provision of telecommunications services. Nevertheless, their contribution to broadband development has varied significantly over time. In the late 1990s, both local and national utilities in the European Union (EU) engaged in the provision of broadband networks, but only few of them managed to establish themselves as major broadband providers. More recently, new projects involving national utilities have been announced in several EU countries, opening new scenarios for utilities’ contribution to Next Generation Access (NGA) development. This paper identifies and explores the factors affecting the entry and the success of utilities in the EU broadband market, through the comparison of four case studies from four EU countries (Germany, Italy, Sweden and the UK). The evolution of utility involvement in the EU broadband markets is assessed against the interaction of market, technology and policy factors, focusing on the impact of policy and regulatory measures. As a result, this paper provides fruitful insights into the relevance and effectiveness of public interventions in broadband markets. Across the four case studies, public support and public ownership emerged as the main drivers for the involvement of utilities in EU broadband markets, with regulatory measures and economies of scope exerting a limited and decreasing influence. However, the contribution of utilities has varied significantly across the cases studied, reflecting the different approaches taken at national and local level to support broadband development, in spite of the common regulatory framework.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)726-743
Number of pages18
JournalTelecommunications Policy
Issue number9
Early online date13 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


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