Cameron reaches for his coat (credit: The Council of the European Union). Last Friday, after 24 hours of negotiations, European leaders agreed on a new EU budget deal for 2014-2020. Two summits were needed: one was ...
EurActiv Aid advocate: EU leaders took short-term approach to budget EurActiv The amount reserved for overseas aid in the EU budget for 2014-2020 is almost the same as in the previous period 2007-2014, and is much smaller than the Commission...
Broadband campaigners say EU budget cuts hammered out last week will kill high-speed connections needed by rural homes and businesses, after it emerged the budget for rural broadband – seen as vital to creating new businesses – has been cut by €8.2bn (£7bn) to just €1bn.
They also warned that the European parliament, which has to sign off the new budget, could block the cuts, which saw infrastructure investment plans of €50bn over seven years slashed to just €24bn – the largest slice of the €34bn in cuts pushed for by David Cameron.
However, unrest among MEPs over the cuts to infrastructure spending could lead to some of the cuts being reversed when the budget comes to a vote in March or April.
"It's a giant leap backwards," said Brian Condon, a director of the Community Broadband Network, which provides support for community-based schemes. "In the UK, broadband policy is being dictated by the big players, which is characterised by two things – incrementalism and centralisation."
The EC has an ambitious plan, the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), which included a plan to enable broadband connections of up to 100 megabits per second (Mbps) for half of Europe's population by 2020, with the rest on 30Mbps.
Of that, €9.2bn of funds were earmarked to help develop rural broadband, where long distances and low population density make high-speed systems initially uneconomic for private second companies.
But the cuts mean that is now out of reach, said Charles Trotman, of the Country Land and Business Association. "This would mean it's up to member states or the private sector to put up the funding," he said. "It's highly unlikely that certain member states would be able to. Just a billion euros isn't going to be enough."
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