New EU digital chief Guenther Oettinger is looking for fresh ideas to tackle the absence of a fast internet connection for most rural users in the EU.

Oettinger (pictured) said more than four out of five homes in Europe’s countryside lack fast broadband, either mobile or fixed.

And the new digital supremo wants new thinking to address this shortcoming, he said in a blog.

The EC has set itself the target of every citizen having a 30Mb/s-plus connection by 2020.

The commission has to strike a balance between rural subscribers becoming trapped with a single operator, and enabling the same operator to make a decent return for rolling out networks.

The European Parliament and Council of Ministers are currently discussing this very subject.

And of course there is the possibility of some level of public subsidy to support broadband rollout.

“But much more is needed to connect every village in Europe. We need new, fresh ideas and open discussions without ‘taboos’,” writes Oettinger.

In a bid to move the debate forward, he suggests importing an idea from the energy sector. “In some limited cases, for new pipelines, companies can be exempted from the requirement to provide competitors with access to pipelines.”

An operator would have to convince the EC that without an exemption an investment would not be made.

“Of course broadband is not energy; and different tools are appropriate for different situations – the needs of a dense city with rich competition may be different to those of an unserved rural area,” he writes.

“In the first case, consumer choice is the issue; in the second it is having broadband at all. In a village – wouldn’t it be better to have the option of broadband with a longer contract, than not to have broadband at all?,” Oettinger asks.

“It should not be a ‘taboo’ to ask such questions and start a public discussion on them,” he concludes.