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UPDATE EU Deal Paves Way for FREE Public Wi-Fi Hotspots in Local Communities

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017 (8:27 am) - Score 719

A new deal has been reached between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on last year’s proposed £104 million WiFi4EU initiative, which aims to equip “every European village and every city with free [WiFi] internet access around the main centres of public life” by 2020.

The plan was first officially proposed in September 2016 as part of the European Commission’s new “Gigabit Socity” proposals, which separately included a new target for “all European households” to get a minimum Internet download speed of 100Mbps+ by 2025 (here).

At the time the WiFi4EU initiative lacked much in the way of detail, although under the new agreement it has been confirmed that an overall amount of €120 million (£104m) shall be assigned to fund the necessary equipment for public free WiFi services in 6,000 to 8,000 municipalities across all Member States.

Local authorities will be able to apply for funding once the system is set up, although the “specific sources of the funding” have yet to be agreed. As you’d expect the funding will only be available to areas where a similar public or private offer does not yet exist.

The Informal Deal Includes..

* The creation of a single authentication system valid throughout the EU;

* Funds to be deployed in a “geographically balanced manner” across member states and on a “first come, first served” basis;

* At Parliament’s insistence, public wireless access points (libraries, public administrations, hospitals) may be funded only if users are allowed to connect without any direct or indirect payment (commercial advertising or use of personal data for commercial purposes);

* Public bodies should cover operating costs for at least three years and offer a free, easy to access and secure connectivity to users to be eligible, and;

* Projects duplicating similar free private or public offers in the same area are excluded from this financial support.

The new agreement has come at a time when the United Kingdom is in the process of leaving the EU (Brexit) and thus it’s unclear whether or not we will remain a member long enough to benefit. On the other hand many UK towns and cities centres have already deployed free WiFi networks of their own.

Andrus Ansi, VP of the Digital Single Market, said:

“The Digital Single Market strategy aims to build a fully connected Europe where everyone has access to high-quality digital networks. The WiFi4EU initiative will improve connectivity in particular where access to the internet is limited. WiFi4EU is a welcome first step, but much more needs to be done to achieve high-speed connectivity across the whole EU territory – such as improving Europe-wide coordination of spectrum and stimulating investments in the high-capacity networks that Europe needs.”

One key flaw in this plan is that by 2020 we’d still expect that a fair few areas will be waiting for 30Mbps+ capable fixed line broadband connections to arrive, which in many remote rural areas may leave Satellite backhaul as the only option for fuelling a WiFi network. The latter would of course push up the cost of deployment, hinder usage and limit performance. However the current plan does not appear to firmly specify the quality of WiFi that must be provided.

Otherwise the draft deal must now be rubber stamped by the Parliament and the Council before the legislation can enter into force, which will happen long before the UK leaves the EU.

UPDATE 12th September 2017

The European Parliament has approved the resolution with 582 votes to 98 against, with nine abstentions.

Carlos Zorrinho (S&D, PT), Rapporteur, said: “The WIFI4EU Initiative was a strong political vision that will soon become a concrete reality throughout the EU, assuring that, regardless of where they live or how much they earn, every European benefits from high quality WIFI connectivity. This will improve the European Gigabit Society, rendering it economically competitive and socially inclusive“.

In order to be eligible, public bodies should cover operating costs for “at least” 3 years and offer free, easy to access and secure connectivity to users. Also, EU funds can only be used if commercial advertising or the use of personal data for commercial purposes are excluded. Projects duplicating similar free private or public offers in the same area are excluded from this financial support.

The funds will be used in a “geographically balanced manner” in more than 6000 communities across member states on a “first come, first served” basis to finance free wireless connections in centres of public life, including outdoor spaces accessible to the general public (libraries, public administrations, hospitals etc.).

Leave a Comment
3 Responses
  1. Avatar captain.cretin says:

    So we wont get it, as we will be out of the EU by then.

    1. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Well the completion is expected by 2020 but that still leaves most of 2017, 2018 and a bit of 2019. At present we don’t even know if we’ll be completely out by 2019 either *shrug*.

    2. Avatar captain.cretin says:

      Perhaps, but we are already being squeezed out of various EU co-operative ventures; so the chances of managing to stay in this are very dependant on how Anti-UK the people running it turn out to be.

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