The Gigabit Infrastructure Act (GIA) is a misunderstood, little-known legislative proposal. Yet it is one of the most consequential files the European Parliament is working on at the moment.
We need this legislative act to ensure speedy internet and equal access to broadband infrastructure for all EU citizens, as well as to ensure predictability for operators The patchwork of rules and procedures governing the deployment of very high-capacity networks across the 27-member bloc – for instance, fibre and 5G – along with lengthy and burdensome permit-granting procedures, challenges related to the use of public infrastructure, and a lack of coordination between authorities, have impeded the rollout of such networks. These obstacles have also prevented operators from benefiting from economies of scale.
Just 7.58 per cent of EU households currently have fixed broadband access of at least 1 Gbps. At 65.8 per cent, 5G coverage is also low in the EU, and the figure is even lower in rural areas12. This is where the Gigabit Infrastructure Act comes in. This proposal seeks to close regional disparities in gigabit connectivity, bridge the digital divide between rural and urban areas, and give the companies that install wireless infrastructure, such as towers more predictability by introducing additional emphasis on their business model as well as curbing speculative land practices.
It also seeks to expand access to physical 5G infrastructure for commercial buildings in rural and sparsely populated areas where no other alternatives exist. With this new regulation, we want to ensure that most European citizens will have access to high-speed internet by 2030.
This proposal is also our last opportunity to abolish intra-EU phone charges before the regulation that currently caps intra-EU calls at 19 cents per minute expires next year, in May. Yes, you read that right. EU consumers still pay up to 19 eurocents per minute when calling someone in another EU country. These intra-EU phone charges are not to be confused with the roaming charges that were abolished in 2017 and which allow consumers to use their mobiles abroad when travelling in the EU at no extra cost.
Intra-EU call fees instead apply when EU consumers call or text a phone number in another EU country with their mobile or fixed phones while in their home country. The Commission has not yet proposed a solution for the soon-to-expire regulation, so we face uncertainty and possibly even higher intra-EU charges after May of next year. For this reason, I have put forward a proposal to eliminate all retail fees for intra-EU calls, something the European Parliament has also called for. This would represent a noteworthy advancement that would not only benefit our citizens by promoting communications and interaction within the EU, but also deepen the single market for digital and telecommunications services across the EU.
We simply cannot allow the EU to take a step backwards and accept a situation where citizens will have to pay higher intra-EU call fees than they did in the past. At the same time, companies deserve and need predictability and smooth procedures, not uncertainty and red tape.