Commission to tackle Europe’s broadband divide

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A wide-ranging package of proposals to reform the EU’s telecommunication rules, due on 13 November 2007, will include measures to boost competition in Europe’s broadband markets in order to increase the number of subscribers in new member states.

Although access to high-speed broadband internet in the EU has increased greatly over the past year, there is a growing gap between the best and worst performers. 

According to a report published by the Commission on 15 October, the number of broadband lines in the EU 25 (excluding Bulgaria and Romania) increased by 28.7% between July 2006 and July 2007, bringing the average number of subscribers to 18.2% of the total EU population. However, some countries – particularly the new member states – continue to lag far behind because a lack of adequate infrastructure and high prices are preventing citizens from accessing these services. 

In Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Poland and Slovakia, less than 7% of the population is connected, against as much as 37.2% in Denmark and 33.1% in the Netherlands. The two countries are now the world’s top performers in terms of broadband penetration per capita, topping South Korea. 

“It is unacceptable that the gap between the strongest and weakest performers in Europe is growing. Europe must act now to get its broadband house in order”, stressed Commissioner Reding, adding that she would make specific proposals on this as part of her November telecommunications package.

The widespread introduction of broadband at affordable prices is one of the chief objectives of the EU’s e-Europe 2005 action plan (see LinksDossier), which aims to bring every citizen, home, school, business and administration into the digital age and contribute to the Lisbon goal of becoming the world’s most competitive, knowledge-based economy (see LinksDossier on the Lisbon Agenda). 

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