The second 2021 Broadband Platform meeting brought together members of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) with European Commission experts and a Portuguese Presidency of the Council representative – giving them the occasion to exchange on the latest developments concerning key European initiatives in the field and to discuss critical challenges around the empirical measurement of digitalisation progress. The Broadband Platform's main objective is to accelerate the deployment of high-speed broadband across all European regions, including rural and sparsely populated areas where there is not enough market-driven infrastructure development.
Michael Murphy , Chair of the Platform and of the CoR's ECON Commission, as well as member of Tipperary County Council, said: "
If there is an important lesson from the pandemic, it is that technology can help us when we need to adapt to challenging situations. Digital technologies have now become imperative for working, learning, entertaining, socialising, shopping and accessing services such as health and culture. "
Anne Karjalainen , member of the Broadband Platform, Chair of the CoR's SEDEC Commission, as well as member of Kerava Municipal Council, said: "
Bridging digital divides through coordinated and comprehensive strategies, involving all levels of government across the European Union, is nowadays a bare necessity for a sustainable recovery in a post-COVID era. This means ensuring affordable and stable high-speed broadband access for all, regardless of their geographical location or socio-economic background. The Recovery and Resilience Facility does support the digital transition, but we need to move up a gear and work towards achieving true digital cohesion, minimising disparities across the European Union. The Broadband Platform is an important place for the European Committee of the Regions to have meaningful exchanges on what a truly cohesive Digital Europe should look like on the ground. "
The first thematic bloc of this year's second Broadband Platform meeting dealt with the issue of measuring digital transformation at the local level. The ESPON statistical expert
Martin Gauk presented studies and concept papers proposing different approaches to collecting data to estimate cities' and regions' degree of digitalisation. Participants examined different factors which could be used to distinguish digitally literate – or "smart" – regions from those exhibiting significant potential for further digitalisation steps. They also discussed how the European Commission's digital principles, as outlined in the
Digital Decade Communication , could be complemented to better apply to specific regional contexts.
Part two of the meeting evolved around two ongoing European Commission key initiatives: the
Connectivity Toolbox , presented by
Rita Filipe Silva, from the Portuguese Presidency of the Council and co-Chair of the Connectivity Special Group and the
review of the Broadband Cost Reduction Directive , presented by
Miriam Mendioroz, from the European Commission's DG Connect. The questions raised during this session touched on the implementation of good practices included in the Connectivity Toolbox, on its regional dimension as well as on likely changes to the Broadband Cost Reduction Directive.
In a fully digitalised Europe, geographical location and physical distance will matter less as people will be able to work, learn and participate in private or public life from anywhere in the EU. Today, however, citizens' and businesses' access to digital goods and services as well as their participation opportunities in the online world are still closely tied to their workplaces' or sites' integration into the European broadband infrastructure, and hence to their geographical location – creating important digital divides between European regions. Connectivity thus emerges as a paramount objective for any future infrastructure development across the European territory.
Meeting twice a year to discuss various topics related to broadband deployment, the Broadband Platform seeks to establishes an effective two-way flow of communication between the European Commission DG Connect and the European Committee of the Regions: It provides the European Commission with a forum to inform the CoR members about key EU-initiatives concerning digital transformation and connectivity. And it gives CoR-members the possibility to directly inform Commission policy-makers about the situation and challenges they experience at the local and regional level with regards to the broadband expansion. Key issues concern: policy and governance, technology choices, financial sources, regulatory framework conditions as well as measuring and monitoring digitalisation progress.
Maximilian v. Klenze
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