Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Flash EU destines 1 bn for high speed internet

The Commission proposes EUR 5 billion new investment in energy and Internet broadband infrastructure in 2009-2010, in support of the EU recovery plan

As part of the ongoing implementation of the EU recovery plan endorsed by the European Council in December 2008, the European Commission has today presented proposals to invest in key energy and Internet broadband infrastructure projects. These will deliver a much needed stimulus to the EU economy in the short term, while at the same time targeting strategic goals such as energy security. All Member States will benefit from the package of measures.

The package presented today contains:
* a short Communication outlining the background to and the objectives of the initiative;
* for energy projects: a total of EUR 3.5 billion is proposed for investment in carbon capture and storage (financial envelope: EUR1,250 million), offshore wind projects (EUR500 million), and gas and electricity interconnection projects (EUR1,750 million).
* for broadband:, the Commission proposes to target EUR 1 bn to extend and upgrade high-speed internet in rural communities. This money will be targeted via the existing EU's Rural Development Fund to cover the "white spots" on Europe's broadband map (30% of the population in rural areas who do not have broadband access).
* and tackling new challenges identified in the "health check" of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP): using the existing rural development mechanisms, this would direct EUR 0.5 billion to launch the work of tackling the "new challenges" agreed in the health check. These new challenges are: climate change, renewable energy, water management, biodiversity and dairy restructuring.

The extension and upgrading of high-speed internet infrastructure is an economic and social imperative. The European Economic Recovery Plan set out a goal of developing broadband networks to achieve a full 100% high-speed internet coverage by 2010. However, rural areas will always face additional difficulties in linking up to broadband. As investment slows to a trickle, this risk is redoubled. This has direct social and economic consequences. That is why it is right to concentrate this action on rural areas - and using the rural development instruments will allow for action on the ground to start quickly.

The European Commission aims to achieve 100 % high-speed internet coverage for all citizens by 2010 as part of the European Economic Recovery Plan. EUR 1 billion has been earmarked to help rural areas get online, bring new jobs and help businesses grow. On average, 93 % of Europeans can enjoy a high speed online connection but in some countries broadband covers less than half of the rural population. Broadband internet connection is expected to create 1 million jobs and boost the EU's economy by EUR 850 billion between 2006 and 2015.

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