updated 09:10 am EDT, Fri September 26, 2008
EU Universal Broadband
The European Commission today outlined a goal for all European Union member states to have access to high-speed Internet access by 2010. Calling broadband an "essential condition" for a good economy, Commissioner Viviane Reding likens fast Internet access to a basic utility and explains that certain countries are at an inherent disadvantage due to the absence of at least some form of broadband coverage in some areas. Only 40 percent of Romanians have the option of access faster than dial-up, the official mentions in one example.
The problem is particularly acute in rural areas, where Internet providers either can't or don't extend their better networks. Well-developed countries such as Germany and Italy still see 12 and 18 percent of their respective rural populations go without the choice, according to the Commission.
EC measures have reportedly already streamlined launching technology that would help make broadband access more feasible in these areas, including an EU-wide approval system for satellite Internet service as well as a proposed option to use former analog TV signals for wide-area wireless Internet instead of digital TV. The Commission says, however, that it may consider a universal requirement to provide coverage if no clear sign exists that these and other measures are likely to supply access to some areas and users.
Such a plan might also involve a "safety net" where landline phone service and Internet access are provided to the less fortunate.
A mandate would be one of the first worldwide and would reinforce the continent's position as one of the quicker broadband access adopters. Eight EU countries are currently adding high-speed Internet coverage at a rate faster than the US, where no definitive plans for rural expansion have been made and where most customers have access to only one or two providers versus the multiple options available in some European nations.