EC tells states to boost broadband

The European Commission (EC) has, for the first time, proposed that governments within the European Union (EU) should provide aid...

The European Commission (EC) has, for the first time, proposed that governments within the European Union (EU) should provide aid or financial incentives to boost the availability of high speed broadband Internet services.

Widespread availability of broadband - which allows content providers to offer consumers advanced multimedia services - is key to ensuring Europe's competitiveness, the EC said in its report, "eEurope 2005", released last week.

The EC, the EU's executive body, said any financial aid should be targeted at underdeveloped areas where private sector investment is not viable. "Member states, in co-operation with the commission, should support, where necessary, deployment in less favoured areas, and, where possible, may use structural funds and/or financial incentives. Particular attention should be paid to outermost regions," it said.

As well as widespread availability of broadband, Europe should, by 2005, have online public services, particularly e-government, e-health and e-learning, a dynamic e-business environment and a secure information infrastructure, the report said.

Each of these priorities is interrelated with the others, said Erkki Liikanen, commissioner for enterprise and information.

"The widespread availability of broadband access, for example, requires the appearance of new services and content, ranging from e-government to entertainment, but many of these new services require the always-on nature and speed of broadband, as well as better security," he said.

Initiatives to get public services online and the emergence of digital TV and third generation communications should help the demand side of the equation, while on the supply side, initiatives such as the establishment of a cyber-security task force and funding for less favoured regions should advance the roll-out of broadband infrastructure, Liikanen said.

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