Bureaucratic red tape slowing rural broadband rollouts in Finland

Finland's broadband push is being hampered by "the bureaucracy surrounding state aid for the installation of the networks," according to telecom operators, cooperatives and other service providers looking to build into the country's remote villages, with at least one carrier reporting delays of up to one year to obtain funding.

Much like U.S.-based carriers that have to deal with the rules, regulations and overall temperament of federal regulatory agencies, Finland's service providers must navigate intricate red tape to get a share of limited resources, the Helsingin Sanomat reports.

On a positive note, the Finnish government and European Union have earmarked €91 million ($113 million) to make broadband a reality in the more sparsely populated areas of the country. On a negative note, the newspaper said, "only a fraction of the allocated funds have been spent."

Most applications to get at the subsidies go to the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority (FICORA). But limited resources and a complicated application process are slowing progress.

"According to the law, an applicant for subsidies needs to have very detailed plans for the project. Reporting on this information has taken a long time for many applicants," an agency spokesman said. "The greatest delays occur when the applicants have not provided all of the required information."

Savon Kuituverkko was one of those that actually got funding—€1.8 million ($2.23 million) of the €2.5 million ($3.1 million) FICORA has so far distributed—after a delay of nearly a year. The company, which is jointly owned by local authorities, is setting up a fiber optic cable network and, unlike others frustrated by the delays, was unwilling to start until it had money in hand.

"Because of the delay in funding, some applicants have started the construction already before any financing has been made available. We have not taken that risk," CEO Pekka Laukkarinen told the newspaper. "I never would have believed that getting the funding would be this difficult. The bureaucracy has caused a delay of nearly a year."

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