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Here in Europe, we are usually keen to depict ourselves as a developed, technologically advanced region. We love to quote Copenhagen, Barcelona, Amsterdam, London, as leading models for aspiring “smart cities” of all over world. However, this is only part of the picture.
Side by side with the Europe of urban conglomerates and shiny districts, there is the Europe of the countryside, of small town and villages where time seems to have stopped and everything is slower, Internet access included. According to official figures, only18% of European rural households have access to high-speed broadband.
Not a staggering figure indeed, when you consider that over 56 % of the population in the 27 Member States lives in rural areas. Even in cities, conditions are not always outstanding. Investment in broadband networks is falling short and overall only 64% of EU households have available 30 Mbps and just 3% have connections of 100 Mbps.
A far cry from the goals set by the European Digital Agenda: to have 100% of EU households with at least 30 Mbps broadband and 50% households with access to 100 Mbps or more by 2020.
That’s why the European Commission is launching today the Connected Communities initiative, which aims at identifying and supporting a number of innovative pilot projects for deploying high speed broadband across the Union.
The initiative, the Commission said in a note, “will map potential European broadband projects, and identify the most mature ones, which will be prioritized for “technical assistance” services under the Connected Europe Facility (CEF), in partnership between the European Commission and the World Bank”.
“Technical assistance”, translated from the language of Brussels’ bureaucrats here stands for help in developing a business model, advice on the forms of financing available, and on the legal aspects involved, especially for what concerns state aid screening, as the Commission has defined special rules to assist in the granting of state aid for broadband in ways that do not harm competition.
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