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New broadband platform to boost connectivity in Europe
By setting up a Participatory Broadband Platform in cooperation with the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), the European Commission plans to involve local and regional decision-makers in order to reach European targets for connectivity and broadband deployment in rural and remote areas.
The CoR President Markku Markkula warmly welcomes the initiative, which is part of a wider legislative package published on 14 September. It includes measures such as the full deployment of 5G and a plan to equip public places with free wireless internet access. "Broadband connectivity is a prerequisite for schools, universities, civic organisations and companies to be connected in today's digital world" he said. "The Participatory Broadband Platform will be a new bench-learning instrument and help to launch well targeted initiatives. The CoR is ideally placed to exchange best practices with our 700 members. Let's make effective investments in broadband projects together by using a combination of most appropriate public and private financial instruments."
Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Günther Oettinger said: "We all need to work together to provide all areas in Europe, including rural and remote ones, with the connectivity networks fit for our digital future. The Committee of the Regions’ support to our connectivity vision is very important. We do need local and regional authorities on board; the establishment of a broadband platform will be a great step to this end."
The new platform will allow local and regional representatives to discuss the main challenges and share their best practises on governance, policy and technology choices and financial opportunities with regard to different funding, such as the new Connecting Europe Broadband Fund which is being established by the Commission. The details are still to be finalized, but the platform could be co-chaired by the European Commission Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content & Technology (DG CONNECT) and the European Committee of the Regions. The meetings would be held in Brussels with the involvement of CoR members and Commission representatives.
The CoR will further examine the new telecom package in an opinion which will be prepared by Mart Võrklaev (EE/ALDE), Member of Rae Municipal Council. Mr Võrklaev was appointed rapporteur at the meeting of the CoR Commission for Social Policy, Education, Employment, Research and Culture (SEDEC) on Monday.
In its previous opinions the Committee has warned against the creation of digital divide between Europe's urban and more rural areas and pointed out the unquestionable socio-economic benefits of investment in ICT infrastructure. A study commissioned by the CoR earlier this year looked into the different ways local and regional authorities across Europe act as financing entities, risk takers or facilitators of broadband deployment initiatives. It suggested to bridge the funding gap by using innovative ways of financing such as equity crowdfunding.
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