Free Wi-Fi in public spaces of local entities
The European Parliament, the Council and the Commission have finally reached a political agreement on the WiFi4EU initiative. It involves the installation of free access Wi-Fi networks in public spaces (such as squares, parks, hospitals…) of local entities throughout the Union.
As the now former President of the Commission has pointed out, Jean-Claude Juncker, the WiFi4EU Initiative will contribute to all European towns and cities with free wireless Internet access in major centers of public life by 2020 «.
The Vice-President in charge of the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip, welcomed the agreement and told the media that the Digital Single Market strategy aims to build a fully connected Europe where everyone has access to networks high-quality digital images.
The WiFi4EU Initiative will improve connectivity in particular where Internet access is limited, WiFi4EU is a welcome first step. But much remains to be done to achieve high-speed connectivity across the EU – such as improving EU-wide coordination of spectrum and stimulating investments in the high-tech sector – in words of the Vice President.
The political agreement includes a commitment by the three institutions to guarantee that a global amount of 120 million euros will be allocated to finance equipment for public services of Free Wi-Fi in 6,000 to 8,000 municipalities in all Member States.
Specific sources of funding will be finalized in the ongoing legislative discussions on the revision of the current multiannual financial framework programme. Local authorities will be able to apply for funding once the system is set up.
In practice, local public authorities (municipalities or groups of municipalities) wishing to offer Wi-Fi in areas where there is not yet a similar public or private offer will be able to apply for funding from through a simple and non-bureaucratic process.
A subsidy allocated in the form of vouchers will be used to purchase and install state-of-the-art equipment, i.e. local wireless access points, while the public authority will cover the running costs of the connection itself.
The WiFi4EU Initiative, announced by Juncker in his State of the Union address in September 2016, is part of the ambitious review of the rules of the EU on telecommunications, including new measures to meet the growing connectivity needs of Europeans and increase Europe’s competitiveness.
This fulfills one of the promises that the European Union had made and that few believed in its effective fulfillment. Public administrations are modernizing at their own pace.