The European Commission and the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) launched a joint platform today to help high-speed broadband reach all European regions, including rural and sparsely populated areas where there is not enough market-driven development. The first meeting of the Broadband Platform took place in Brussels in the presence of the Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Mariya Gabriel, CoR President Karl-Heinz Lambertz and local and regional politicians from EU member states.
The new platform aims to contribute to the deployment of faster, better and sustainable high-speed broadband in all European regions , working towards eliminating the digital divide due to geographical location or market failure. Topics discussed included governance, policy and technology choices, regulatory framework and financial opportunities. In the inaugural meeting, there was particular focus on the WiFi4EU initiative which aims to provide free wireless connectivity in public spaces everywhere in Europe.
CoR president Karl-Heinz Lambertz said: "High-speed broadband connectivity is a cornerstone of the EU's Digital Single Market and a prerequisite for competiveness at global level, for example in the field of e-commerce. This platform should improve cooperation between European Commission, local and regional authorities, experts and different stakeholders, allowing to identify obstacles for investment in broadband deployment and to develop funding opportunities via EU programmes and innovative public-private partnerships."
Mariya Gabriel , EU Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, said: “Broadband coverage can happen only if people on the ground are fully involved. We need the regions on board so to understand what their real investment needs are. We need to understand what obstacles they encounter and how we, the Commission, can help tackling them. The Broadband Platform with the European Committee of the Regions will be instrumental for providing policy-makers with valuable and informed input about the reality on the ground, a bottom-up policy process that will provide European regions with ownership of their connectivity development.”
The Broadband Platform establishes a regular political dialogue between the European Commission and the European Committee of the Regions. Participants, which includes 12 CoR members, will meet twice a year to discuss various topics related to broadband deployment: policy and governance, technology choices, financial sources, regulatory framework.
Kieran McCarthy (IE/EA), Member of Cork City Council, who took part in the first meeting, said: "Local and regional authorities foster innovation and competitiveness in the data economy through tailored demand-and-supply-side solutions including broadband roll-out, the digital economy, e-inclusion and e-government. However, disadvantaged regions often have neither the basic infrastructure nor the expertise needed to establish a digital data-driven economy. Through this platform, we are sharing our best practises and providing solutions to help everyone gain access to the European digital single market."
McCarthy led the CoR report on Building a European Data Economy , adopted on Wednesday, which asks the Commission to support local and regional authorities by prioritising the use of EU Structural and Investment Funds for digital infrastructure in all European regions. McCarthy's opinion also highlights the enormous potential of collation of data for local and authorities and businesses in various fields, ranging from health, environment, food security, climate and resource efficiency to energy, intelligent transport systems and smart cities and regions.
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