The European Commission announced that a deal has been struck with the European Parliament and Council to launch the ‘WiFi4EU’ initiative to install free Wi-Fi hotspots in public squares, parks, hospitals and other public spaces across the EU.
The political agreement includes a commitment by the three institutions to assign €120 million to fund equipment for public free Wi-Fi services in 6,000 to 8,000 municipalities in all member states.
The specific sources of the funding will be finalised in the ongoing mid-term review of the EU’s multiannual financial framework, said the EC, adding that local authorities will be able to apply for funding once the system is set up.
A grant allocated in the form of vouchers will be used to purchase and install equipment, while the public authority will cover the running costs of the connection itself.
The WiFi4EU initiative was first announced by EC President Jean-Claude Juncker in his State of the Union Address in September 2016, with Juncker expressing the hope that it would contribute to the vision of having “every European village and every city with free wireless internet access around the main centres of public life by 2020.”
European commissioner for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip welcomed the agreement, saying the initiative will improve connectivity above all where access to the internet is limited.
“WiFi4EU is a welcome first step, but much more needs to be done to achieve high-speed connectivity across the whole EU territory – such as improving Europe-wide coordination of spectrum and stimulating investments in the high-capacity networks that Europe needs,” he said.