EU sets Net goals

The European Commission has set new targets for broadband Internet penetration in the European Union, especially in the public...

The European Commission has set new targets for broadband Internet penetration in the European Union, especially in the public sector.

However, commissioner for enterprise and the information society, Erkki Liikanen, but he warned there will be little extra money to help finance the roll out of high-speed Internet distribution.

In a paper called e-Europe 2005, the commission has called for the 15 member states of the EU to have broadband connections for all public administrations by 2005.

"A lot of public services are already online, but without fast Internet access it is difficult to offer interactive services," Liikaanen said.

He said the money to fund this technological step forward must come from existing budgets. Some €6bn (£3.8bn) of so-called structural funds are already earmarked for high-technology projects in poorer regions between 2000 and 2006.

The only change to financing will be that the European Commission will increase its share of co-financed projects from a ceiling of 10% at present to around 35%, Mr Liikanen said.

"This means we will be able to support fewer but bigger projects," Liikanen said.

The commissioner did not provide any figures on how much funding would be needed to meet the targets. But he shrugged off concerns that neither telecommunications operators nor governments would be particularly eager to foot the bill.

Telecom companies are still struggling to digest the billions of euros invested in third-generation mobile phone licences. And cash-strapped governments need to balance their budgets and may find it difficult to finance new infrastructure projects.

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