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Communications Minister Ed Vaizey is hopeful that a relaxing of EU rules could result in state aid being deployed to help plug gaps in the UK's urban broadband infrastructure.

Currently, such funding can only be rolled out in areas of market failure or where the case for commercial investment is weak; generally rural towns and villages.

This is mainly due to the fact that dense urban or city areas are viewed as having plenty of potential customers and competition, but this is not necessarily the case, particularly in areas of the capital where some otherwise state-of-the-art premises are receiving very slow broadband speeds.

According to Mr Vaizey, it is vital that homes and businesses alike have access to superfast broadband, in order to ensure productivity and keep the UK competitive.

This has been addressed in some part by the rollout of the government's Connection Voucher scheme, but this only benefits businesses and is of little help to residential properties.

However, it seems that the use of state aid to help plug the remaining gaps is a step closer, thanks in part to the appointment of the new EC Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Gunther Oettinger, who has indicated that he could adopt a more flexible approach to state aid.

Last year he alluded to a similar situation in the energy sector, where some companies building new pipelines can be exempted from the requirement to provide competitors with access, if they can convince the Commission that the investment would otherwise not have been made.

As such, Mr Vaizey is hopeful that a similar arrangement could be rolled out in the telecoms sector, which would open up the door for urban areas with poor broadband connections to be upgraded accordingly.

He added: "We have a problem with state aid in cities - the Commission believes cities are already competitive enough. But a new Commission might take a different view, which would be helpful. As the EC recognises that networks are a vital part of the digital single market and for economic growth, a "reasonable argument" on using state aid for cities could once again be made, he concluded.

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