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Cambridgeshire County Council

CLIENT STORY

Navigating state aid laws to future-proof connectivity across the county

Full fibre networks are essential to helping communities across the UK thrive and build a positive future. We helped Cambridgeshire County Council’s Connecting Cambridgeshire programme navigate complex laws around state aid to secure government funding and seize an opportunity to extend digital connectivity across the county.

 

Key successes

  • Took just six weeks to test funding award against state aid law

  • Cambridgeshire and Peterborough aiming for 99% superfast broadband

MAKING A WATERTIGHT CASE

Fast, reliable broadband is critical to enabling growth and supporting prosperity. That’s why the government has launched a £190 million Challenge Fund to stimulate investment in full-fibre networks across the UK. Cambridgeshire County Council (CCC) is one of 13 councils to bid successfully for a slice of the £4 million fund.

Before finalising the funding, the Council had to prove the award didn’t constitute incompatible state aid, which is against EU regulation. We carried out a market economy operator principle (MEOP) analysis to show that the Council’s investment would achieve a level of profitability similar to that acceptable to a private investor – and that the award was therefore lawful. Making a watertight case was vital. Without this, the Council could face a successful challenge in future and be required to repay the award in full.

THE RIGHT MIX OF EXPERTISE

Our diverse team, with expertise in state aid law and business case development for private entities, moved fast to distil and master the complex legal, economic and financial factors involved. Our extensive experience of working with telecoms operators meant we could hit the ground running in terms of understanding the sector.

Within just six weeks, we had produced the required market economy operator principle (MEOP) assessment. We walked the Council through our report, making sure they understood the assessment, could own it and gain clearance internally.

PA’s clear-sighted analysis allowed us to move fast to take advantage of an opportunity to install ducting for fibre cables as part of an imminent project to build a new cycleway in Cambridge.

Noelle Godfrey,
Programme Director – Connecting Cambridgeshire & Smart Cambridge

SEIZING THE OPPORTUNITY

Our rapid analysis – and subsequent approval by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) – paved the way for the Council to put the funds to work almost immediately: the installation of a new cycleway in Cambridge provided the ideal opportunity to start installing ducting for new fibre cables. These will become part of a wider full fibre network that businesses and communities across the county need to build a positive and prosperous future.

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Christian Norris

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