The Vice President for Europe’s Digital Agenda project, Neelie Kroes, has called upon member states to have “the courage to invest” in ultrafast broadband services that will deliver “Usain Bolt Internet” speeds to everybody in the region by 2020. Otherwise we risk being “tied down by slow connections“, warned Kroes.
Kroes made the remarks, which were clearly designed to help drum up support for an extra €9.2bn (£7.44bn) to boost broadband connectivity via the pan-European Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), during her speech to the Broadband World Forum in Amsterdam today.
The extra funding, which would be used to help make superfast broadband (30Mbps+) services available to 100% of Europeans by 2020 (the UK will also have to aim for this), has been in trouble ever since September 2012 when the Cypriot Presidency pointed to a lack of support among national governments and called for the level of investment to be “reconsidered“.
Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the EC’s Digital Agenda, said:
“We’re at a crossroads for broadband. Where we end up depends on some tough political and investment decisions. Take the right turn, and we will see the benefits for many decades to come. Take the wrong one, and future generations will curse our missed opportunity.
In 2020, when an international business looks at where to put itself, it’s going to look for the digital societies with ultrafast broadband. Here in Europe, just one million homes have very fast symmetric connections: less than one half of one percent.
I don’t want us to languish in that slow lane, overtaken by international partners. I want Europe to get Usain Bolt Internet. Because we can’t stay competitive, we can’t become a world leader, struggling by on ancient networks. We need fast broadband for all: it’s time decision makers woke up to that.”
Kroes similarly noted that demand for wireless and mobile broadband data was doubling every year and would need the equivalent of a massive “data plan” that could provide 3 Trillion Megabytes a month by 2016. She added that fixed line broadband ISP demands were also doubling every 2 to 3 years, a slightly slower rate but no less important.
New rules and regulations are constantly being shuttled down the political grapevine to tackle such issues, although so far most of the funding has come from private investment that tends to benefit areas that already have good connectivity. More funding, argues Kroes, will be needed to meet the Digital Agenda’s target and push ultrafast connectivity out to the more neglected final third (33%) of both rural and urban areas.
The UK has already committed around £1bn+ to make speeds of 25Mbps+ available to 90% of people by Spring 2015, which must be matched by local authorities and private investment. However its post-2015 plan remains unclear and most of this funding is still awaiting final EU State Aid approval.