EU reveals €120m plan to provide free wireless internet in 8,000 public places

31 May 2017

Image: jamesteohart/Shutterstock

Free wireless internet initiative is good news for EU citizens.

EU negotiators have agreed to fork out €120m to provide free wireless internet connections for up to 8,000 municipalities in the EU area.

The political agreement agreed between the European Parliament, the European Council and the European Commission will fund the purchase of equipment to provide free public Wi-Fi to these municipalities in all member states of the EU.

‘The Digital Single Market strategy aims to build a fully connected Europe where everyone has access to high-quality digital networks’

Future Human

The WiFi4EU initiative, a measure of the Digital Single Market strategy, supports the installation of these Wi-Fi hotspots in local communities across the EU. This includes public squares, piazzas, parks, hospitals and other public spaces.

Free wireless internet for every European village and city

As explained by European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, the WiFi4EU initiative will contribute to the vision of having “every European village and every city with free wireless internet access around the main centres of public life by 2020”.

Local authorities wishing to offer Wi-Fi in areas where such a public or private service is not available will be able to apply for funding via a simple and non-bureaucratic process.

A grant allocated in the form of vouchers will be used to purchase and install local wireless access points while the public authority will cover the running costs of the connection itself.

“The Digital Single Market strategy aims to build a fully connected Europe where everyone has access to high-quality digital networks,” said vice-president in charge of the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip.

“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.”

National Broadband Plan

Ireland is awaiting the decision for the awarding of contracts under the National Broadband Plan, which is supported by EU funds and could become the template for similar intervention plans across the EU.

The contracts for the National Broadband Plan (NBP) are expected to be announced in June. However, Communications Minister Denis Naughten, TD, has signalled that this could be delayed, potentially pushing the plight of disconnected communities out until 2022.

The plan was recently changed when the Government brokered a deal with Eir to allow the incumbent operator to connect 300,000 of the more than 900,000 premises in the intervention areas. Eir has committed to spend €200m to upgrade 890 communities to fibre broadband.

The move reduces the number of homes in the NBP, requiring intervention to around 542,000 premises, including an additional 84,500 identified for the Department of Communications’ High-Speed Broadband Map. The number in the redrawn area now includes 990,000 citizens, or 21pc of the national population, and 381,000 members of the labour force.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years