>@EIB/Wirtschaftsministerium Niedersachsen

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is providing Investitions- und Förderbank Niedersachsen (NBank) with a EUR 150m framework loan for improved access to broadband services in rural areas. The funds will be used to expand passive broadband infrastructure in the Federal State of Lower Saxony in order to provide fixed network-based high-speed broadband services to households and businesses that are still not connected to the fibre optic network. The promoters and owners of the passive infrastructure, which is to be expanded through a number of projects, are the rural districts (Landkreise).

European Investment Bank Vice-President Ambroise Fayolle stressed: "We are delighted to be able to support the broadband offensive in Lower Saxony with our EUR 150m loan. The Federal State of Lower Saxony has been steadily forging ahead with the roll-out of high-speed networks for several years now. It is showcasing on a regional level what applies to the whole of Europe: if areas wish to be competitive, they must invest in network infrastructure in particular, in order to be able to transfer large volumes of data reliably and rapidly. This development of high-performance networks is one of the EIB’s core objectives. We therefore look forward to our upcoming cooperation with NBank in order to finance, jointly with it, corresponding projects in Lower Saxony."

Lower Saxony's Economics Minister Olaf Lies emphasised: "The investment package is an important component of the implementation of our broadband strategy. With the loan contract entered into between the European Investment Bank and NBank, we can press ahead even faster with the broadband roll-out and provide the rural districts relatively easily with loans on particularly favourable terms to build broadband networks. The contract will enable NBank to provide the rural districts with practical advice and submit loan proposals. Together with the range of support measures that is now being made available by the federal and state governments shortly before the roll-out, this will provide a strong boost.”

The Chairman of NBank's Board, Michael Kiesewetter, said: "We are helping the roll-out of the broadband network in Lower Saxony to get off to a good start by providing advice from the design stage through to implementation. Our municipal financing offers favourable interest rates and long maturities of at least 20 to 25 years. On top of that, via the way in which the loans are structured NBank offers the appropriate flexibility that is needed by, for instance, providing grace periods."

The broadband roll-out is one of the top economic and structural policy priorities of the Government of Lower Saxony. Subsidies and loans will enable the rural districts, especially the sparsely populated country areas, to forge ahead with developing high-speed internet connections.  More than two thirds of the rural districts in Lower Saxony have meanwhile signed up to this initiative.  By 2020 a basic supply throughout the region of at least 30 Mbit/s is to be achieved.

The European Investment Bank is supporting the expansion of high-speed internet in the context of the high-level “Europe 2020” strategy to promote smart growth and develop a knowledge and innovation-based economy. A key element is the "Digital Agenda for Europe" initiative, under which efficient high-speed networks are to ensure the reliable and rapid transfer of constantly growing volumes of data. Outside Europe's major urban centres, however, there is still a considerable need to achieve universal access to high-speed broadband networks.