High-speed Internet Access Needed to Revitalise Europe's Rural Regions

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Connecting the 30% of the EU's rural population that has no high speed internet access should be a priority for achieving "broadband for all" by 2010 the European Commission said today. Improved internet connectivity is a powerful tool to stimulate swift economic recovery. The Commission has now outlined how it would use its own support programmes to boost internet networks and services in rural areas and called on EU Member States to do the same. Good internet access can make farms and companies in rural areas especially small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) less isolated and more competitive through access to international markets and faster and more efficient ways of doing business.

Meanwhile, the European Parliament and the Council are discussing a Commission proposal to make a further 1 billion available through the European Economic Recovery Plan to spread high speed internet access more widely across all regions of Europe.

In addition, about 15 billion is already being spent on information and communication technologies priorities under the EU's Cohesion Policy for 2007 -2013 -on e-public services and internet infrastructure, for example. Some of this will be spent in rural areas.

"In the 21st century, many of us would say that we just can't do without Information and Communication Technologies - certainly in the office, and perhaps even in our homes. Why should rural areas put up with patchy access to this tool?" said Mariann Fischer Boel, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development. "If we're serious about having prosperous and vibrant rural areas, we still need to help everyone get the most out of modern technologies."

"We must do our utmost to bringing internet technologies to all citizens of Europe. Internet technologies contribute to half of productivity growth in the EU, and the EU's Member States cannot afford their rural areas missing out on this potential, especially not in these times of economic crisis," said Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Information Society and Media. "Broadband is an indispensable tool for businesses in rural areas, particularly SMEs who depend on a high-speed connection to the rest of the economy. I call on the Council to help us ensure that these businesses are not let down by giving a strong signal in support of broadband for all Europeans."

While an average 93% of Europeans can enjoy access to a high speed online connection, the figure is only 70% in rural areas, and in some countries (such as Greece, Poland, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania) high speed broadband internet networks cover just 50% or less of the rural population.

The Commission, in a Communication adopted today, outlines the benefits which better access of rural areas to modern Information and Communication Technologies like the internet can bring to businesses and individuals in rural areas, like farms and food producers.

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Tags: european commission  eu  viviane reding  rural  parliament  european parliament 

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