Frustration over slow progress in in rural broadband
Red tape surrounding subsidies angers applicants
A number of telecommunications operators, as well as companies and cooperatives set up by local authorities to bring broadband internet service to the most remote villages in rural Finland are voicing frustration at the bureaucracy surrounding state aid for the installation of the networks..
The Finnish government and the European Union have earmarked EUR 91 million to the effort bring high-speed broadband cable to sparsely populated areas. Only a fraction of the allocated funds have been spent.
“I never would have believed that getting the funding would be this difficult. The bureaucracy has caused a delay of nearly a year”, says Pekka Laukkarinen, CEO of Savon Kuituverkko.
The company, which is jointly owned by local authorities in the Savo region, is setting up a fibre optic cable network in the sparsely-populated area.
Also lamenting the slow progress of the project is Matti Ahonen, chairman of the Rautavaara Data Network Cooperative, in the north of Savo.
The cooperative wants to set up a fibre optics network in Rautavaara and nearby municipalities, but the work is at a standstill.
“We submitted the application late last year, but we still have to give more reports. This is taking too much time and is encumbering the work.”
Most of the applications for subsidies are sent to the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority (FICORA). Päivi Peltola-Ojala, the communications market expert at FICORA, blames the delay on limited resources and the complicated application process.
“According to the law, an applicant for subsidies needs to have very detailed plans for the project. Reporting on this information has taken a long time for many applicants. The greatest delays occur when the applicants have not provided all of the required information.”
FICORA has sought to speed up the application process by providing more advice and information to applicants.
There have been enough applications to make sure that the funding earmarked for the purpose will be used.
FICORA puts up EUR 66 million of the funding, and the state centres for Economic Development, Transport, and the Environment (ELY Centres) will put up EUR 25 million. So far, FICORA has distributed EUR 2.5 million.
Savon Kuituverkko recently was granted EUR 1.8 million, after a long wait.
“Because of the delay in funding, some applicants have started the construction already before any financing has been made available. We have not taken that risk”, say CEO Laukkarinen.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Telecommuting making slow inroads into Finland (8.5.2012)
Fast 4G networks set up in cities (26.3.2012)