Government strikes agreement on super-fast internet

Summary

Telenet and Proximus have agreed a deal with Flanders that will see vastly increased internet speeds delivered throughout the region by 2020

Months of negotiations

Telecom operators Telenet and Proximus have approved plans with the government to provide super-fast internet connections across Flanders. The aim is to deliver five times faster data speeds to most companies and households in the region by 2020.

The government announced last year that a super-fast network would be required if Flanders was to take its place among the world’s digital elite. Ideally this would be achieved with the private sector, but there were a range of options. On the one hand, the government could persuade the existing fixed network operators, Telenet and Proximus, to rise to the challenge. On the other, it could bring a new operator into the market.

After several months of negotiation, the first option has won out. Under agreements signed on Monday, Proximus and Telenet have committed to meet the government’s requirements.

First of all, the capacity of the network should be “future-proof”: in other words, able to meet the demands of rapidly evolving digital technologies. Secondly, it should cover as much of Flanders as possible. And finally, other companies that want to provide products or services across the network should be able to do so, paying fees that are fair and competitive.

Best possible connectivity

Meanwhile, the government has agreed to provide the “right preconditions” for fulfilling these commitments. Though little detail has been released, innovation minister Philippe Muyters insisted that the arrangement was solid. “We’ve made clear agreements, with mutual commitments, and we will monitor their implementation together,” he said.

The companies will meet the government each year to check on technological progress, while the telecommunications regulator will keep them up to date on access and pricing.

Both companies have expressed their satisfaction with the agreement, while underlining the steps they are already taking to boost internet speeds. “We want to cover the core of all cities and municipalities in Flanders in the long term, to offer families the best possible connectivity,” said Proximus CEO Dominique Leroy (pictured above with Muyters). “In addition, it is our focus to connect as many companies as possible to the network in order to give the maximum boost to digital development. We share this objective with the Flemish government and are happy with its vision.”

“It’s important that we can continue to work in a positive climate, and this agreement with the Flemish government is a good step in the right direction,” added John Porter, chief executive of Telenet.