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The European Commission (EC) has told telecoms companies that they must speed up investment to boost broadband access.

European Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes told the chief executives of leading firms such as France Telecom that they should take control of modernising Europe's broadband infrastructure and invest in new-generation networks.

Currently, many of Europe's historic telecoms companies, including France Telecom, Telefonica, Deutsche Telekom or Telecom Italia, run copper networks, something the EC is keen to move away from.

"Unfortunately, we see that for the time being, telecom companies are hesitant to commit significant funds to fibre roll-out," said Ms Kroes at a conference sponsored by the Financial Times and the European Telecommunications Network Operators' Association.

She added that some operators have made big profits from the copper networks and as such are reluctant to invest in fibre.

In order to keep the move to fibre at the top of the agenda, Ms Kroes has announced the launch of a consultation on the pricing of wholesale access to broadband networks, which will aim to assess whether wholesale access charges are so inflated that copper wire networks are too profitable, creating a reluctance to invest in newer technology.

In order to tackle this Ms Kroes said she wants to restore the 'incentive' for investing in fibre and also hinted that there may be cuts to earnings made on older networks for firms which don't comply with the move to new generation broadband, reports the Guardian.

She also stated that if copper is switched off gradually, the cost would be reduced dramatically and fibre investments would break even within a decade.

The EC is aiming to connect all European Union residents to broadband with speeds of at least 30Mb by 2020, with half of these individuals being able to access speeds of 100Mb.

However, it has stated that if the current rate of investment remains the same, it is unlikely these targets will be met.  

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