Representatives from the European Council and European Parliament approved proposals to create a public Wi-Fi fund to improve internet access in under served areas.
The WiFi4EU scheme, announced by the European Commission (EC) in September 2016 and submitted for debate in December, will create a pot of €120 million to fund Wi-Fi equipment in 6,000 to 8,000 public areas throughout EU member states. The EC estimates this will enable between 40 million and 50 million connections per day.
Local authorities will be able to apply for a grant to cover the cost of purchasing hardware to serve areas where similar services do not already exist. Typical locations likely to qualify include libraries, parks, public squares and museums. The public authorities will have to pay maintenance and ongoing running costs for each service.
The initiative is part of an EC drive to ensure citizens of every village and city in Europe have access to free wireless internet.
EC VP for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip said: “The Digital Single Market strategy aims to build a fully connected Europe where everyone has access to high-quality digital networks.”
“The WiFi4EU initiative will improve connectivity in particular where access to the internet is limited. WiFi4EU is a welcome first step, but much more needs to be done to achieve high-speed connectivity across the whole EU territory – such as improving Europe-wide coordination of spectrum and stimulating investments in the high-capacity networks that Europe needs.”
Local authorities will be able to apply for the scheme when the legislation is finalised. Although no firm timeline has been offered, the EC estimates applications will open later in 2017.