The Ministry of Digital Governance is preparing the Gigabit Voucher Scheme, which will subsidize ultra-high speed internet connections to residential customers and businesses.
In accordance with Ministry of Digital Governance:
With the aim of the rapid development of broadband networks, as Greece still lags behind other EU member states in terms of the availability and penetration of high-speed broadband networks, the Ministry of Digital Governance puts to public consultation a new subsidy program.
This is the Gigabit Voucher Scheme action, to strengthen ultra-high-speed connectivity through a subsidy scheme (Gigabit Voucher Scheme) and to improve Greece's digital performance, as reflected in the European DESI index (Digital Economy and SocietyIndex).
The public consultation, which ends on 31/8/2022, is being conducted in accordance with EU guidelines for the application of State aid rules for the rapid deployment of broadband networks.
Need to implement the action
Greece still lags behind other EU member states in terms of the availability and penetration of ultra-high speed broadband networks.
More specifically, based on the DESI index for the year 2021, the coverage of fixed ultra-high-speed networks (VHCN) is 10% against 59% of the European average, while the penetration of broadband services at speeds of 100 Mbps or higher is 3% against 34% of the European average. These performances rank Greece in 27th place among the member states in terms of the Connectivity sub-index of the DESI index. It is noted that Greece also occupies a similar position in DESI 2022, the data of which were made public last week.
The implemented as well as announced private and public investments are expected to significantly address the deficit in terms of the availability of ultra-high speed networks and services covering almost the entire country. However, despite the increased availability, it seems that the reduced demand still remains a key problem, calling into question the investment planning of the providers. As the experience of the Super-Fast Broadband (SFBB) action has shown, consumer support through the SFBB voucher contributed decisively to the increase in demand for super-fast broadband services. In conditions of high inflation that limits the disposable income of households, the taking of appropriate actions by the State is considered imperative in order to maintain the momentum and further strengthen the transition to even higher speeds.
In addition, the intervention of the State to promote ultra-high-speed and high-quality broadband services is deemed imperative as, as the COVID-19 pandemic and the energy crisis have shown, modern economies and societies are particularly vulnerable to events of major importance. Events like these radically change the way of life as well as the role of digital services and connectivity services which are now an integral good for every household as well as a tool for the daily operation of businesses and the economy.
Purpose of the action
The purpose of the action is to support households and small and medium-sized businesses to acquire a Gigabit broadband connection by reducing the initial connection costs and monthly fees for a period of 24 months.
Through the successful implementation of the action as well as other related actions of the Ministry of Digital Governance, it is estimated that the penetration of ultra-high speed broadband services in the country may exceed 10% within the time horizon of the action, now creating a critical mass of subscribers that can support the further penetration of services as well as the sustainable development of networks.
Minimum service requirements
The minimum service requirements are defined as follows:
- Download speed 250 Mbps
- The terminal equipment of the end user necessary for its operation is included (modem / router)
- The service is instantly upgradable to 1 Gbps speed
- For small and medium-sized enterprises, symmetrical download / upload speeds should also be supported, i.e. the upload speed of 250 Mbps
- If the service is provided by a vertical provider whose market share in the retail broadband market is greater than 20% then the provider must provide at least one wholesale service that will allow other providers to provide a corresponding retail service. The wholesale service should be provided under conditions of transparency and non-discriminatory treatment and at a price equal to the corresponding regulated price as determined by EETT in the context of the regulation of the wholesale local access market. Vertical providers with less than 25% may also offer wholesale services on a voluntary basis in accordance with the above.
As part of the action, the initial one-time connection fee will be subsidized as well as part of the monthly fee for a period of 24 months. The total amount of the aid is set at €432 per beneficiary household and €888 per beneficiary micro-medium enterprise.
More specifically, the aid amount is:
- €48 one-off amount corresponding to the connection fee
- €16 per month per beneficiary household for a period of 24 months
- €35 per month per beneficiary micro-medium business for a period of 24 months
Each subsidized household or micro-medium enterprise will be able to receive support only once within the framework of the action, while it will be possible to transfer the subsidized connection to another address as long as the minimum requirements of the service are still met. If the connection is interrupted before the end of the 24-month period, then the subsidy for the remaining period is interrupted and the beneficiary is not entitled to participate in the action again.
Budget and duration of the action
The total budget of the action is estimated at 100 million euros and its duration up to 24 months or until the budget is exhausted.
Target population and intervention areas
Beneficiaries of the action are all citizens (natural persons including businesses) and small and medium-sized businesses located within the intervention areas and who do not already have a broadband connection with a download speed greater than 100 Mbps. As far as small and medium-sized enterprises are concerned, in order to be beneficiaries of the action they should be active in the areas of the scope of application of Article 1 of Regulation (EC) 1407/2013, also observing the limits for minor aid).
The action is technology neutral and support will be available to connections of any technology that meets the minimum requirements of the service. Beneficiaries of the action will be natural persons and small and medium-sized enterprises provided that they have not received a subsidy under the SFBB action.
The exact determination of the buildings / addresses eligible for assistance will be carried out through a mapping process that will include the existing coverage of networks that meet the minimum requirements of the service. The mapping will be carried out based on the format of the data included in the appendix "3b. Coverage point (CoverPoint)" regarding the Broadband Map and Network Registry, as will be finalized in the relevant Ministerial Decision that will soon be issued..
Action implementation procedures
Providers submit the points/buildings where Gigabit service is already available (as well as the corresponding points/buildings where it is expected to be available within the next 4 months) to the Action Information System. These data will be updated during the action, whenever new coverage points are added, and will be submitted based on the format of the data included in the appendix "3b. "CoverPoint" of the Ministerial Decision regarding the Broadband Map and Network Registry as will be specified in the Action Guide.
The providers will submit through the Information System of the Action the offers that will be available in the context of the Action and which will have to be approved by the Administrative Authority before they are made available.
The interested party will be able, through the Action's website, to be informed if Gigabit services are offered (or planned to be offered) at the address of interest. If this is the case, he will be able to submit a request for the issuance of a coupon, after being identified, using the credentials (username/password) of the "TAXISNET" information system of AADE.
The interested party should ensure that a broadband connection with a download speed greater than 100 Mbps does not already work at this address. In addition, if it is a small or medium-sized enterprise, it must declare that it has not exceeded the limits (which are set out in Regulation (EC) 1407/2013) for de minimis aid, with aid it has already received or has applied for and approved, including the applicant, in the context of this aid action.
In addition, he will submit an electronic copy of the latest broadband account that may be operating in the specific area in order to check the accuracy of the information reported.
If Gigabit services are already offered at the said address by at least one provider, the voucher will be issued and immediately become active/usable and the interested party becomes a beneficiary of the Action. If Gigabit services are not yet offered at the address in question by any provider (but it has been announced that they will be offered in the future within a 4-month period) the voucher will remain inactive until at least one provider offers Gigabit services. From this moment onwards, the coupon becomes active/usable, and the interested party is informed about it and becomes a beneficiary of the Action.
The beneficiary will also be able to see all the Gigabit service offers of the electronic communication providers at the address in question. He will then contact the provider of his choice to activate the Gigabit service using the voucher.
After activating the Gigabit service, and in order to have documentation of its correct operation, the beneficiary should re-enter the Information System of the action in order to:
- To confirm the activation of the service
- To authorize the provider to collect the grant
- To carry out - in the operating area of the broadband connection - a speed test through the Information System.
Payments to providers will be made on a six-monthly basis on the basis of a payment request accompanied by the necessary documents as will be determined in the Action Guide.
You can read the entire announcement of the Ministry of Digital Governance download from here.