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Kroes Calls on National Governments to Help EU Get Usain Bolt Internet

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012 (1:37 pm) - Score 308

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.

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5 Responses
  1. Avatar New_Londoner says:

    An unfortunate turn of phrase given the recent debacle over Virgin’s advertising with the ASA and now Watchdog!

    However the general point is well made, although if it is not backed with any form of funding then it is just hot air. Moving just, say 10% of the budget from the Common Agricultural Policy into this area would have tremendouse impact on jobs and growth, as well as encouraging Europe’s farmers to learn to stand on their own two feet! JFDI as someone once said.

  2. Avatar Chris Conder says:

    Far better to take the money from things like the high speed rail link or weapons or fat cat salaries for monopoly telecoms operators. The CAP money is to subsidise cheap food for people, not to subsidise farmers. The high speed rail link will subsidise a few commuters who want to get to town 20 minutes sooner, whereas that money put into fibre broadband would enable the whole country to join the digital revolution and cut down on many journeys that could be done with telepresence.

    1. Avatar New_Londoner says:

      @Chris
      Totally disagree about CAP. Around €50bn a year goes into it, near half the EU budget, with UK farmers receiving £3.3bn last year. If it was about cheap food for us consumers, why does it include minimum price guarantees for EU farmers, along with import quotas and tariffs for those outside the EU?

      Diverting even 10% of the UK famer’s £3.3bn a year into broadband which benefit the economy enormously, is much more sensible than taking it from other infrastructure projects, especially those like HS2 which don’t start for a while. If you’re serious about helping the rural economy then diverting a fraction of this could really help – it could easily be ring-fenced for the final third.

      I can see why you and the farming lobby would prefer the status quo for CAP, but it’s about time we asked some hard questions about something that consumes nearly half the total annual EU budget. Why should one interest group benefit so much at the expense of so many?

    2. Avatar Somerset says:

      As pointed out before, HS2 is as much about capacity as journey time reduction.

      Telepresence (your new word?) can be done without fibre. Video conferencing started years ago with 128k.

      Back on the ‘fat cat’ buzz word then CD? What about the rich farmers?

  3. Avatar Sledgehammer says:

    When do politicians ever do ANYTHING that benefits the whole of the country, not very often. So no chance for taking money from the CAP or the HS Train. It will always be the case of just plod along as we are now. Lets leave it to somebody else to sort out in 2015 or 2020.

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