On 30th September 2015 the Digital Poland Project Centre announced a new call for projects under competition procedure, for co-financing of projects with the funds of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) within the framework of the first priority axis of the Digital Poland Operational Programme – ‘Common access to high-speed Internet’, Measure 1.1 ‘Eliminating territorial differences in terms of access to high-speed broadband Internet’.
The Office of Electronic Communications, referred to in the Digital Poland Operational Programme as the institution specialising in digitalisation, in compliance with the provisions of the Trilateral Agreement on some of the tasks to be executed by the Office of Electronic Communications in connection with the implementation of the 1st Priority Axis: Common access to high-speed Internet of the Digital Poland Operational Programme for the years 2014-2020, concluded on 3rd June 2015 by and between the Minister of Infrastructure and Development, the Digital Poland Project Centre and the President of the Office of Electronic Communications, supported the institutions involved in the implementation of the Digital Poland Operational Programme by means of developing the competition documentation for the purpose of the said call for projects, namely:
- specified and categorised the inland areas which require public intervention financially supported by the European Union;
- developed the Requirements for the NGA networks within the Digital Poland Operational Programme to include technical specification of the networks and the wholesale access policy;
- cooperated in developing the ordinance of the Ministry of Administration and Digitization on supporting the development of broadband infrastructure within the framework of the Digital Poland Operational Programme for the years 2014-2020;
- cooperated in developing the remaining competition documentation, including the project criteria and rules for selection of projects, expenditure eligibility guidelines and the Project Assessment Committee’s rules of procedure, as well as the template of the Co-Financing Agreement.
An interdisciplinary project team was established in the Office for the purpose of implementation and coordination of the tasks entrusted to UKE within the framework of the Digital Poland Operational Programme.
The support areas were identified, inter alia, using the data collected within the inventory of the telecommunications services and infrastructure conducted by UKE, and the analysis of access to the broadband Internet services developed on the basis of the inventory, connected with a multifarious economic assessment of the project profitability. It was feasible thanks to the work put into gradual improvement of the quality of data collected within the inventory carried out in the last years.
Selection of the areas was a complex and multistage process. According to the EC’s Guidelines and the ordinance of the Ministry of Administration and Digitization on supporting the development of broadband infrastructure within the framework of the Digital Poland Operational Programme for the period 2014-2020, financial support for the construction of the NGA access network is granted only in such areas where this kind of network does not exist and is unlikely to be constructed on commercial principles within three years from the date of the decision to grant the financial support. That is why it was necessary for the whole process to address the operators’ investment plans, as well as the construction of broadband networks under other projects co-financed with the European funds.
In the analyses the Office took into consideration also the municipalities that reported to the Ministry of Administration and Digitization the level of fees for using rights of way below PLN 20 per metre. In order to determine the level of co-financing, a theoretical model of the network construction costs and forecasted demand was developed jointly with the National Institute of Telecommunications within the framework of the SIPS project. That unique model is the first one to identify the areas of intervention, which do not directly correspond with the administrative division of the country, in order to award public funds in the most cost-effective manner. In the course of related works UKE analysed all the available databases for addresses of buildings in Poland (over 9 million addresses), using both the governmental and commercial registers, including the databases of: PESEL (personal identification number), REGON (statistical identification number], NOBC and TERYT of the Central Statistical Office, PRG and BDOT 10K of the Head Office of Geodesy and Cartography. In total, over 3.2 million addresses of white areas for the NGA networks were taken into account in order to determine the intervention areas. The Office made more than 324 simulations broken down by districts and estimated the construction costs for the NGA networks in the whole territory of Poland, with respect to the existing types of access technologies for 23 thousand project areas.
Furthermore, the Office specified the minimum number of premises that should be covered by the network as well as the addresses of 579 locations selected for network connection (including 4 health care institutions and other educational institutions), within the areas selected for intervention purposes.
The requirements for the NGA networks within the framework of the Digital Poland Operational Programme encompass the technical specification and the wholesale access policy. The draft of that document was developed with the participation of external experts and representatives of the telecommunications market. In the first half of 2015, the President of UKE conducted workshops and meetings with the representatives of the relevant chambers and telecommunication companies. The agenda of the aforementioned workshops and meetings included discussions about the most important requirements for the wholesale access to the networks developed within the framework of the Digital Poland Operational Programme. As a result of the conducted works, a draft guidelines were developed, which were then subject to public consultation held from 1st June till 1st July 2015. Having analyzed the positions and opinions submitted by the representatives of the relevant chambers and telecommunication companies, the Office introduced appropriate amendments to the document. The assumptions for the requirements were discussed with the market representatives in the working group on broadband networks.
Technological neutrality and network openness were taken into account when developing access policy. The access policy constitutes the minimum requirements assuring the ‘far-reaching change’ described in the Guidelines of the European Commission by means of the NGA networks.