Public Services > Central Government

EU to help fund wireless connectivity for local communities

Matteo Natalucci Published 12 September 2017

€120m funds under WiFi4EU scheme will be allocated on a first-serve basis to help local public administrations promote access to wireless connectivity in public spaces


European Members of Parliament (MEPs) today approved a “WiFi4EU” scheme to finance free wireless connections in centres of public life, including outdoor spaces accessible to the general public in local villages, town and cities, hospitals, and libraries. 

The scheme will fund the equipment and installation costs of internet access points. The fund will be disbursed in a “geographically balanced manner”, so that high-speed connections can benefit both residents and visitors of thousands of local communities across the EU - at least 6,000 to 8,000 local communities by 2020. British authorities applying for funding under the scheme are not expected to be impacted by ‘Brexit’ until Britain leaves the EU in March 2019.

Projects will be selected on a first-come, first-serve basis once bidding opens. Municipalities applying to the scheme should propose projects aimed at equipping areas where a free public or a private Wi-Fi hotspot offering similar characteristics does not already exist.

In order to be eligible, beneficiaries should be able to guarantee both the connectivity (internet subscription) and the operating costs for at least three years and offer free, easy to access and secure connectivity to users.

Projects using personal data for commercial purposes or duplicating similar free private and public offers in the same area will not be eligible for the scheme.

WiFi4EU's budget is €120m between 2017-2019. It plans to allocate funding of €20m for some 1000 ‘municipalities’ such as local councils or hospitals and potentially 8000 municipalities in all. The scheme will be delivered through online applications to the EU portal with payments by vouchers.

The EU hopes the scheme will encourage local authorities to develop and promote their own digital services in areas such as e-government, e-health and e-tourism through a dedicated app.

Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission president said, "Everyone benefiting from connectivity means that it should not matter where you live or how much you earn. So we propose today to equip every European village and every city with free wireless internet access around the main centres of public life by 2020".

Carlos Zorrinho, European Parliament committee rapporteur, said: “The WIFI4EU Initiative was a strong political vision that will soon become a concrete reality throughout the EU, assuring that, regardless of where they live or how much they earn, every European benefit from high-quality WIFI connectivity. This will improve the European Gigabit Society, rendering it economically competitive and socially inclusive".

The first call for projects from potential bidders in the public sector is expected to be launched towards the end of 2017 or early 2018.

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