The 6th broadband services forum took place on 26 and 27 November. This time, the development of telecommunications infrastructure was emphasized along with the role of market participants. The forum was attended by central and local government representatives, telecommunications operators and equipment suppliers.
Forum participants expressed their positions during numerous debates and workshops. On the second day three workshops by the National Broadband Forum were organized. It was a chance to discuss legal problems facing local government when investing in telecommunications infrastructure and issues concerning telecommunications network construction.
Forum attendees called for swift work on the bill on the support for the development of telecommunications services and networks. The full text is available at:
The President of UKE, who received the award of the 6th forum for concluding the agreement with Telekomunikacja Polska S.A., gave a speech, the full text of which is available below.
Ladies and Gentlemen!
The title of my speech indicates the birth of a certain order in the field we deal with. The title is full of hope. It is also cautious, however. Much is happening but where are we heading? Let’s try to describe our surrounding environment, let’s try to describe what is going on before our eyes.
The London ING Bank, in one of its reports, wrote that the Polish telecom regulation underwent a dramatic change from protectionism to being one of the most advanced, pro-competitive environments in Europe, in just 3 years. These changes have led to immediate, short term benefits for consumers in the form of significant price reductions and service penetration boost. These changes affect mainly broadband. Let’s not waste time to quote details which are commonly known. What could be done immediately for Polish consumers has been done so that after years of stagnation the users already present in the network could profit from quick results.
All this time broadband clients who still remained outside the network or were present in the network of low, insufficient quality were of great concern to us. This concern was shared by the European Commission which has granted us financial means, incomparable with any other European market, for the years of 2007-2013 to balance the disproportions in broadband Internet access and to support demand boosting initiatives such as e-entrepreneurship or e-administration.
It was these conclusions that led consecutive governments to adopt documents, upon UKE’s initiative, on investment barriers, and next, as a result of our frustration arising from difficulties in the execution of these documents, to write positive solutions (E. Gaca) – to develop initial premises for the act on the development of telecommunications networks and services which was followed by the first draft of the act. The project is based on two strong legs – the removal of barriers/support for investment, whoever the investor actually is (a local government unit or an entrepreneur) and the establishment of the public intervention rules in the areas where the market is not interested in investment or in investment on its own. The project immediately gained staunch supporters and fierce opponents from day one. This is why a certain level of compromise was necessary such as with other public administration offices. It has, nonetheless, been already adopted by the Government and is going to be sent to Sejm this Thursday. We hope for courage and determination in the hearts of our PMs and for a swift pace of work, hopefully just like in case of the gambling act. We thank Minister Gaj for her work, patience and internal balance thanks to which drafting of the act was completed without bloodshed. To be realistic, we can expect the new act no sooner than in the second half of 2010.
It is my opinion that the outcome of our work at the Broadband Forum this year should take the form of an appeal to the Parliament to adopt the act promptly.
EU programmes have also encountered difficulties associated with their internal structure. The decision to divide these programmes between a number of public administration segments was very democratic, in fact, and it conformed with the subsidiary principle. On the other hand, however, it resulted in the lack of coordination between the programmes and accidental – necessary but of voluntary nature – participation of UKE’s experts in programme implementation. This is how, the idea to gather the projects, which so far were scattered over a number of operational programmes, under the umbrella of one single-vision initiative came about in UKE and MSWiA (Ministry of the Interior and Administration). The main objective of this vision is to show that the development of information society, which is boosted by Internet broadband access, is impeded by a triad of: a) lack of infrastructure, b) lack of end-devices, c) lack of awareness.
The coordination between scattered initiatives, mentioned above, should be introduced at two levels:
1) the infrastructure developed in the framework of these projects (e.g. common methodology of BSC areas, synchronization of contact points, complementarity of these projects already in the planning stage),
2) the infrastructure with the removal of „b” and „c” brakes (e.g. coordination of last mile infrastructure development with the 8.4 projects or the coordination of RPO with the 8.3 projects aimed at provision of equipment and training to those exposed to the digital divide.
This project must also lead to uniform terminology used by all investors and to common understanding of basic terms associated with public intervention, compatible with EU guidelines, and to definition of technical interoperability standards of newly constructed networks.
This project is being developed and we hope that it will boost investment and make the investment process more coherent.
The POIG programme (action 8.4, last mile), the execution of which is closely linked to regional operational programmes, should enter its implementation phase in each of the regions only when the principles of construction of the backbone network and access nodes are known. Since the backbone faces delays, also the 8.4 action has been delayed in those regions where node locations are not known. As a result of cooperation with MSWiA, UKE’s role, as of 1 January 2010 in this programme, will be verification and control over the decisions granting or denying EU means since there is still no decent nationwide inventory, which could be safely used by bodies implementing the projects and by project’s beneficiaries.
Such an inventory will be created by a project ”The broadband infrastructure information system and the Broadband Poland Portal, financed by EU means, implemented jointly by the Ministry of Infrastructure and the National Institute of Telecommunications. The aim here is to help implement not only the broadband projects but also the “big act”. At the same time the project ensures further operation of the National Broadband Forum and the Portal, which will soon be named Broadband Poland, both of which were established by UKE, and which is known to you as the Broadband Forum.
The National Broadband Forum (KFS) was initiated by the President of UKE and “the Founding Fathers”, which is FTP, FWW and SBT, within the framework of a governmental programme “Digital Poland”. Its logo was designed by ASP artists who wanted to contribute to a higher cause. The Forum promotes the development of broadband networks in Poland. It facilitates exchange of information and good practices on the construction of broadband networks and effective use of EU means for that purpose. It is open to all who want to actively support the growth of the tele-information market in Poland. The interest in the Forum membership was declared by local government representatives, telecom undertakings, governmental and non-governmental organisations and scientific institutions.
The work of the National Broadband Forum is defined in the following priorities:
Priority 1. Infrastructure development and upgrade and eradication of white spots.
Priority 2. Dissemination and development of tele-information skills.
Priority 3. The safety of network users – safe services.
Priority 4. Development of content and functionality.
Priority 5. Green ICT – use of ICT to protect the environment / reduce energy consumption.
These priorities are discussed at workshops and conferences. So far two conferences have been organized, the third one will be held during our Forum 27 November. It will feature workshops on the creation of services and content of broadband networks, local government investment in the telecom sector and the construction of telecom networks. You are kindly invited.
The main communication tool of the KFS forum is the internet portal, launched 11 May 2009. It offers professional information on the development and functioning of broadband networks, legal acts, interviews, event presentations, video files and recordings of debates and discussion panels. The portal also features a newsletter with information about most important initiatives and sector-related events. It presently reaches three thousand email addresses. There is also a discussion forum and a telecom glossary. Information useful for local government is being prepared and successively made available. Two publications on the construction of broadband networks and telecom investment financing for local government have been released in cooperation with the Rural Development Foundation. Two internet chats have also been organized with MSWiA and WWPE representatives on the 8.3 POIG action (26 August 2009) and the 8.4 POIG action (17 November 2009).
In October a regulatory agreement was concluded between the President of the Office of Electronic Communications and Telekomunikacja Polska SA. The agreement implements new rules for the functioning of the telecom market in Poland, which have been discussed since November 2008, and which are expected to solve most significant problems voiced by market participants and to establish foundations for fair and effective competition development. One of the most important commitments, undertaken by Telekomunikacja Polska pursuant to this agreement, is the guarantee of construction and modernisation of infrastructure till the end of 2012, which will ensure connection of at least 1.2 mln new broadband lines (including 1 mln lines of capacity 6 Mbit/s at least). The implementation of this agreement will, without any doubt, be of significant importance to the development of a knowledge-based society in Poland and will contribute to the creation of competitive and innovative economy. Finally, it should be mentioned that pursuant to the arrangements with TP, 86% of investments will be located in rural areas and 14% outside rural areas (small and medium-sized towns). These arrangements comply with demand proportions which were defined based on demand maps (white spot maps). These maps have been prepared by UKE for a year now and their objective is to identify white spots and the real demand for Internet. Data from UKE maps will also be a basis for a final investment list.
The works leading to the agreement were closely followed by analysts of financial institutions. Its conclusion was assessed positively by the capital market. The theses from the ING Wholesale Banking report of 1 October 2009 entitled “Global Emerging Markets ‘Telecom Market Update’” should be cited here. They indicate that in the times of a global economic crisis one of the best methods of overcoming the downturn is a regulatory policy promoting infrastructure investment by telecom operators. This is the purpose of the agreement between the regulator and TP. The financial dimension of the agreement is assessed at 3 bln PLN – it is the estimated value of investment in development or modernisation of 1.2 mln new broadband lines. The implementation of investment commitments of TP, within the following 3 years, in conjunction with expenditure of 4 bln PLN from EU funds on telecom investment in Poland, will without any doubt help achieve one of the most ambitious investment programmes in the history of the Polish telecom market, generating at the same time considerable budgetary revenue.
We thus have a new broadband order. We began with pro-competitive regulation the benefits of which we are enjoying today. We have significant financial means for investment from public sources, including EU funds. We are in the process of creating a legal environment to speed up and facilitate investment and we are laying down legal foundations for local government intervention in the market in non-profitable areas. We began improvement of expenditure of EU funds to create proper coordination of this process. We are establishing mechanisms to support investors by taking stock of existing infrastructural resources and by bringing investors together and by electronic knowledge databases (the portal, white spot maps). Finally we are modifying the regulatory policy so that the public funds mainly allocated for the backbone and white spots are doubled by private means, invested in broadband access networks.
We have every chance of being successful if all these tasks are finished and if there is synergy between them, supporting investment.
Finally, I cannot help saying that all of this is happening with participation or even thanks to the regulator who, within the last three years, has been accused of the lack of pro-investment and pro-infrastructure approach to the market.
Ms. Anna Streżyńska President of UKE and Mr. Piotr Muszyński, Member of the Board of TP, receive an award for concluding the agreement.