A red-faced European Court of Auditors has had to confirm than the ambitious target of more than half of European households having connections of 100Mbps by 2020 will be missed.
The Auditors admitted that, at present just 15% of households had hit the target and also confessed it is unlikely that EU members tasked with ensuring all Europeans would receive at least 30Mbps will be met by the 2020 deadline.
For Europe to remain competitive in the global economy and for the benefit of citizens and government, good levels of internet speed and access provided by broadband are essential.
It is important that the EU sets itself challenging and realistic targets for broadband in the future and meets them.- Iliana Ivanova: Member, European of Court of Auditors
Rural the poor relation
Rural areas remain a stubborn problem across Europe with 14 out of the 28-member states having less than 50% of fast broadband coverage in their rural areas. And only 40% of rural households have next generation access compared to 76% of the total for EU households.
The auditors found that financial needs for broadband infrastructure were not always properly addressed and the European Investment Bank did not focus on areas of greatest need.
And according to the European Commission, €250 billion is required to achieve the 2020 targets with about half of this needed in rural areas.
All EU citizens should be able to benefit from high-speed broadband connections. This is not the case today, especially in rural areas, which are less attractive to investors.
This is why the Commission pays particular attention to good connectivity and supports the roll-out of broadband connections to 18 million rural citizens until 2020.
If we want to keep our rural communities strong and sustainable, while generating the additional benefit of reducing the burden on our cities, we need to do more, and we need to do it faster.- Phil Hogan: Commissioner for Regional Policy, European Union
Broadband strategies are key
The auditors visited five-member states, Ireland, Germany, Hungary, Poland and Italy and found that while all the countries had developed broadband strategies some had been finalised late in the day and were not always consistent with the targets set by the EU.
According to the auditors Ireland and Italy were unlikely to achieve 100% coverage of 30Mbps by 2020. But they did believe that if the broadband strategies of Hungary, Italy and Ireland were implemented fully they would be in a far better place to achieve the targets by at least 2025.
In response, Irish Minister for Communications, Denis Naughten said the mobile phone and broadband taskforce was committed to a number of initiatives that would enhance mobile phone service quality, particularly in rural areas.
They include the appointment of a broadband officer in every county to act as a single point of contact in local authorities for their communities, the removal of development contributions for telecommunications infrastructure and the revision of exempted development regulations by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government for the roll-out of 4G and 5G broadband services.- Denis Naughten: Irish Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Teachta Dala
Despite this, the auditors found that not all member states visited had put in place an appropriate legal and regulatory environment and this undermined competition between providers which, they said was vital for developing an effective broadband infrastructure.
It argued that the European Commission should clarify the application of State Aid guidelines and support member states’ efforts to encourage more competition in broadband.
Finally, they argued the European Investment Bank should focus support for small and medium-sized projects, particularly in areas where public sector support is needed.