From today, 15 May, at 13.00 [Central European time] precisely, Brussels and municipalities throughout the European Union (EU) will be able to apply for a first batch of 1,000 WiFi4EU vouchers, the European Commission announced today, and benefit more from today’s increasingly digital world.
Indeed, the aim of this scheme, in the words of Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, is to connect “every European village and every city with free wireless internet access around the main centres of public life by 2020”.
“The EU is bringing Wi-Fi into your parks, squares, libraries and public buildings,” the Commission’s factsheet said proudly. And, putting its money where its mouth is, some €120 million from the EU budget will go into the scheme aimed at 6,000 to 8,000 local communities.
The vouchers will be assigned on a first-come-first-served basis, and the lucky 1,000 winners will be revealed this summer, the Commission said.
To ensure geographic balance, each country will receive a minimum of 15 vouchers, with a maximum 95 allowed.
Upon receiving the voucher, municipalities will have to offer secure Wi-Fi services, free-of-charge and without advertisements, for at least three years.
“Funding will only be provided for networks that do not duplicate already existing private or public free Wi-Fi services of a similar quality in the same public spaces,” the Commission makes clear, although adding municipalities can select which installation company to use.
To be eligible, municipalities need to register on the WiFi4EU.eu web portal, which opened on 20 March.
And, if Brussels misses out this time, four more WiFi4EU calls will be launched in the next two years.
The initiative is part of the ambitious overhaul of EU telecommunications rules, including new measures to meet Europeans’ growing connectivity needs, particularly in remote areas, and to boost Europe’s competitiveness.
It comes after the EU achieved, on 15 June 2017, the popular agreement to end roaming charges for all EU travellers. And it follows the release of the 700 MHz band to develop 5G networks for faster speeds and more reliable connections on smartphones and other devices, as well as new online services.