Stenbock House, 9 November 2017 – Members of the Government supported the plan presented by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications to organise a public competition for developing the ‘last mile’ of internet connection, as a result of which low density areas – where there is currently no network and where the private sector is not independently investing – will also be covered with high-speed internet. Minister of Entrepreneurship and Information Technology Urve Palu was assigned the task of working together with the Estonian Competition Authority and the Technical Regulatory Authority to develop the terms and conditions for the competition.
The support measure for covering the whole of Estonia with high-speed internet will be opened next year, and all companies that are looking to invest in the development of fibre-optic internet cables in rural areas will be able to apply.
Organisation of the public competition will follow European Commission regulations and covers all regions in Estonia where there is currently no local access network and where the private sector is not planning to independently invest.
‘It is the Government’s firm position that everyone in Estonia should have access to a quality internet connection’, said Prime Minister Jüri Ratas. ‘People must have the opportunity to conveniently access E-government services and to engage in business, even in low density areas. At the present time, this is not yet possible’, he added.
Minister of Entrepreneurship and Information Technology Urve Palu clarified that if companies have expressed an interest in investing in the development of a broadband network themselves, it is unreasonable to use taxpayers’ money to do so. ‘Previously, within the framework of the ‘last mile’, we would have been able to cover three or four counties with the EUR 20 million set aside from the state budget. By working together with undertakings, we will be able to bring cables to rural areas across Estonia, and no county will be forced to wait’, she explained.
The goal is to complete the construction of access networks across Estonia by 2022. European Union financing has previously been used to support the construction of a basic internet network in settlements and villages, but those resources could not be used to directly finance the bringing of cables directly to homes. The ‘last mile’ project covers the connections to the base network for residences and businesses that were thus far missing, where there is currently no possibility to use the internet or the capacity is insufficient. The total volume of the project is EUR 20 million, of which EUR 10 million will be invested in 2018.