The European Commission (EC) has announced plans to release €9.2bn in funding to help member states deliver superfast broadband connections to citizens and businesses.
The EC wants every person within the European Union to be able to access at least 30Mbit/s broadband connections by 2020.
“In Europe, we face several problems in deploying broadband, with insufficient investment, problems in accessing capital, and a weak business case for rollout in less populated areas,” said vice president for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes.
“This is potentially a serious barrier to growth. So, first, at least seven billion of the proposed €9.2bn would be made available for investment in high-speed broadband infrastructure.”
The EC said that providing this access would have significant benefits for SMEs, by allowing them to access the latest software, applications and storage capabilities via cloud computing, as well as allowing more staff to work remotely and from home.
“Over just 10 years, the right broadband development could give Europe over one trillion euros in additional economic activity, and create millions of jobs,” Kroes added.
“An increase in broadband penetration of 10 percentage points would increase Europe’s annual GDP growth by between 0.9 and 1.5 per cent.”
Kroes explained that the remaining part of the proposed €9.2bn would be invested in creating public networks that could be accessed by public authorities to help deliver a co-ordinated approach on a raft of key issues across Europe.
“Such projects would make it easier to provide cross-border online public services: setting up a business, authenticating identity, delivering government or health services, setting up an intelligent energy network, or responding to cyber-threats across borders,” she said.
The funding forms just part of a huge €50bn plan announced at the same time by Commission president Jose Barroso to improve all aspects of Europe’s network infrastructures, including transport and energy systems.
The plan will now go before the European Parliament and the EU’s Council of Ministers for approval.