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ACM: fiber-optic roll-out experiences accelerated development in the Netherlands

The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) sees a positive trend in the Dutch fiber-optic market, where the roll-out has been scaled up considerably, and more and more fiber-optic is rolled out in larger, interconnected areas in individual municipalities. This has been revealed by the market study that was published today about the trends and developments regarding the roll-out of fiber-optic in the Netherlands. In 2019, approximately 180,000 households were connected to a fiber-optic network. That number increased to approximately 500,000 households in 2020. In total, approximately 3.7 million households (out of 8 million households) in the Netherlands now have fiber-optic connections. Various market participants have also announced plans for a continued, large-scale roll-out of fiber-optic. If these plans are all executed, and the current pace of the roll-out is maintained, the entire country will be connected to fiber-optic by 2030 (or well before then).

ACM does identify several points of attention, particularly in situations where multiple telecom providers have plans to connect consumers and businesses to fiber-optic networks in the same geographical areas. Such situations result in delays to the roll-out, and pose questions among municipalities and telecom providers about what kind of coordination is feasible and desirable.

Manon Leijten, Member of the Board of ACM, says: ‘Over these past 12 months, the pandemic has clearly shown us that the availability of high-quality telecommunication networks is of vital importance to both individuals and businesses. The fact that the roll-out of fiber-optic in the Netherlands has been scaled up considerably over the past 12 months is therefore, in my opinion, a positive development. I find it important that each and every household in the Netherlands has at least one fiber-optic connection, next to the copper connections and cable connections that, in most cases, are already there. That is why we continue to keep a close watch on the fiber-optic market.’

ACM wishes to help telecom providers and municipalities execute the roll-out swiftly and efficiently. That is why ACM has drawn up a handbook that contains ideas for municipalities, describing what options municipalities have, according to ACM, for steering the roll-out of fiber-optic in the right direction. ACM would like to explore these ideas further, together with municipalities and telecom providers. ACM will continue to keep a close eye on the fiber-optic market in order to be able to detect anticompetitive behavior during the roll-out on time, and, if necessary, take enforcement action.

Handbook for municipalities

If, in a municipality, there are multiple telecom providers with overlapping roll-out plans, ACM recommends municipalities to ask those telecom providers to reach an agreement regarding co-investment. With co-investment, they jointly invest in a single network with open access for all internet providers. So far, no co-investment projects have come off the ground in the Netherlands.

In order to expedite the roll-out of fiber-optic, and to minimize nuisance for residents, ACM sees opportunities for municipalities to introduce geographical coordination of the roll-out plans of different telecom providers. This means that it is suggested to the various telecom providers to start their roll-outs in different neighborhoods in order to reach full fiber-optic coverage as soon as possible. Such arrangements depend on the participation of telecom providers, and are temporary: it is not possible, and not desirable to prohibit telecom providers from rolling out fiber-optic somewhere. From a competition point of view, having parallel fiber-optic connections will benefit the freedom of choice for consumers and businesses in the long term.

See also

06-05-2021 Updated market study into the roll-out of fiber-optic in the Netherlands (in Dutch)