It’s my dream to get Every European Digital. And that means everyone needs to be covered by fast broadband connections.
The economic benefits are clear: increasing broadband penetration by just 10 percentage points can boost GDP by 0.9 – 1.5%. But we face problems in delivering new networks: insufficient investment, problems in accessing capital, and a weak business case for operators to roll out everywhere. And we also face difficulty in making online public services available across Europe.
So the European Commission has today proposed a boost which could leverage total broadband investment between €50 and €100 billion, and will also provide funding for pan-European digital public services.
At least 7 billion of this would be for broadband networks – particularly in areas less attractive to the market, like rural and isolated regions. The funding, primarily through equity, debt, or guarantees, would help to increase credibility, and lower the risk, of broadband projects. And so it would leverage other public and private funds, so that the total benefit as a result of the EU’s action could be in the range €50-100 billion. This is a substantial proportion of the investment we need to achieve our targets and get every European with fast broadband coverage by 2020.
The remaining part of the 9.2 billion would be spent – mainly using grants – on building pan-European digital public services. Many member states are bringing new public services online. But to get the most benefit, we need to build infrastructure which stretches across borders, and we need interoperability so that different countries’ systems can “talk to” each other. This will have great benefits if you are trying to access online systems in another member state – for example, trying to set up a business in another country within the single market.
This is, if agreed, a really good news story. We need to be investing just now in the areas which can drive growth in the long term. So I am calling on the European Parliament and the Council to approve them as a matter of urgency.