The European Commission released on 21 March 2006 a Communication on reducing the gap in broadband connections in Europe - Bridging the Broadband Gap - which analyses the European Union’s geographical broadband access disparities, and the need to eliminate them and to insure a wide broadband coverage, in order to foster growth and employment.
In spite of the fast broadband access growth registered in the latest years, broadband is not yet established in some of EU’s less developed areas. In 2005, broadband was available to about 60% of companies and households in the EU15’s remote and rural areas, against about 90% in urban areas, and the gap is greater in the new Member States.
Thus the Commission finds it necessary to mobilize the instruments available to the EU, namely the electronic communications legislation and the structural and rural policies, in order to provide high-speed broadband internet access to all Europeans, in particular in EU’s less-developed areas.
The Commission proposed two main strands of action:
(i) strengthening national broadband strategies, which should set clear targets and respond to regional needs, including a strategic approach to making use of EU and national funding in less-developed or rural areas; and
(ii) stepping up the exchange of best practices, namely by setting up a website that will act as a single meeting point for local authorities and industry players to exchange information and gather experience. The Commission will also hold a large “Broadband for all” conference at the start of 2007 to showcase the benefits of broadband services to rural communities.