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Statement by NEELIE KROES: EC VICE PRESIDENT in charge of the DIGITAL AGENDA; 10/2014

Ladies and Gentlemen, I want to congratulate you on your successful work in the ENGAGE Project over recent years. Europe is all about building bridges across borders: thank you for helping. My goal is also to get every European digital. Every European household now already has at least basic broadband coverage; our aim is for full "next generation" coverage by 2020. Rolling out high-speed internet networks could create 1.2 million jobs in infrastructure alone, in the longer term rising to 3.8 million across the economy, boosting productivity across the board, and supporting a vibrant digital economy. Getting there needs the right framework to promote investment, boost competition, and cut rollout costs. Our legal proposal for a connected continent is about bringing down the barriers to broadband – like better coordinating radio spectrum. The bulk of this investment will come from the private sector. But our goal cannot be reached without some public support, particularly in rural areas – yet those are the places that stand most to gain from digital connectivity, and the growth, innovation and inclusion that it brings. Local Authorities can play a decisive role in overcoming that digital divide.

That is why in January 2013 we published new guidelines on applying EU state aid rules for broadband. And that is why we have put broadband and ICT as a priority for EU structural and investment funds. Over the last seven years, cohesion funding on ICT came to nearly 15 billion euros; 4.2 % of the total cohesion budget. In the next spending period, I hope that will continue to be significant – but we also need it as efficient as possible to make our euros go further and plug the broadband gap.

Together with the World Bank, we have just launched a new initiative: "connected communities". That will help grass-roots projects deliver high speed broadband in under-served areas: those local communities where operators would normally not invest. The aim is to build up a pipeline of projects, innovative and replicable, that could then benefit from further support from the Connecting Europe Facility and European Investment Bank. We are there to help local authorities. I see so many good examples of projects to get broadband to isolated areas. It can be hard to negotiate your way through the maze of options, figure out which one is right for your community, find the appropriate funding model. That's why it's so important to exchange good practice, knowledge, experience and expertise: then we can really ensure that we get every European Digital.

Thank you.

Video statement by Neelie KROES  from European Commission for the ENGAGE 4 the Future conference




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