Higher copper broadband prices may be needed to create funding for investment in Europe's digital infrastructure, it has been suggested.
Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission's (EC) Digital Agenda strategy, said increased revenues may be the only way to encourage broadband providers to extend their networks.
The EC wants every European Union citizen to have access to 30Mb broadband services by the end of the decade, but public funding alone will not make this a reality.
Ms Kroes suggested that paying a premium for copper broadband service may help broadband providers create a surplus which can then be pumped back into rural infrastructure.
"Our target is to ensure that markets know that next-generation access (NGA) investment is profitable for the long term," she stated, as reported by ISPreview.co.uk.
"To hit that target, it seems to me that we will need more than one string to our bow."
Ms Kroes said the EC is exploring whether copper prices could be gradually adjusted after a certain time, while allowing higher wholesale and retail prices for NGA products.
"We should not forget that, in some places, copper and NGA are in a close competitive relationship," she added.
"Where consumers haven't yet seen what fibre offers, they might still be unwilling to pay a premium. In that case, fibre prices mirror copper prices; and lowering copper access prices would send us in the wrong direction."
Ms Kroes said that where there is a firm and credible commitment to invest in NGA, it may not be appropriate to reduce copper access prices.
"Instead they could be an anchor for higher returns on fibre. That is the first plank of the approach we are exploring," she added.
"Alongside that, you'll know that I want markets to be competitive. I want fair access for all, certainty for the industry, and the best deal for consumers."
The EC wants half of all European citizens to have access to 100Mb broadband by the end of the decade.