(05 December 2016) – Last Friday, Telecoms Council marked a first positive step towards providing free Wi-Fi connections in towns, cities and villages across Europe.
EU Ministers approved a partial general approach on the Commission’s proposal to bring free Wi-Fi to the main centres of community life. With the first call for projects expected to be launched before summer 2017, any local authority in the EU will be able to apply for a voucher and provide high-quality internet access in their parks, squares, public buildings, or libraries.
In September, the Commission proposed to equip interested European municipalities with free wireless internet access in the main centres of public life by 2020. The objective is to encourage each community – from villages to cities – to provide at least one public and free Wi-Fi access points for its citizens and visitors.
Local public authorities (municipalities or group of municipalities) wishing to offer Wi-Fi in areas where a similar public or private offer does not yet exist will be able to apply for funding “via a simple and non-bureaucratic process”.
A grant 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.
Total funding of €120 million has been earmarked for the 2017-2019 period. The Commission estimates that at least 6000 to 8000 local communities will be able to benefit from the scheme.