The European Commission Plans Free Wifi in Public Spaces Across its Member States


During the annual state of the union address, Jean Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, announced that the European Union will be setting a goal for its member states to equip public spaces with free wifi. This initiative is being put forward with a view of everyone being able to get online. A European Union factsheet on this initiative indicates the eligibility for such a scheme to parks, squares, libraries and public buildings.

On this point Juncker insisted that ‘everyone benefitting from connectivity means that it should not matter where you live or how much you earn.

The Commission intends to invest a maximum €120 million in around 6000 to 8000 local communities. By virtue of this expenditure, the EU will fund the equipment and installation costs with vouchers, while public bodies will need to pay the monthly subscription costs and maintain the equipment in good order.  These bodies can take advantage of the access points to develop and promote their own new digital services, such as e-government, e-health or e-tourism.

As a further initiative on connectivity, the European Commission expressed another target which it is setting for Member States to provide 5G mobile network in at least one city by 2020. One would assume that the deployment is likely to occur in highly targeted areas.

Additional goals for 2025 include a minimum download speed of 100Mbps for all European households, a minimum download and upload speeds of 1GBps for all hospitals, administrations and other public services reliant on digital technologies and an uninterrupted 5G access for all major roads and railways. All this is in view of Europe’s ambition to lead on the deployment of 5G.

One may assert that while beneficial for certain localities, on a local level it can be easily asserted that the majority of main squares, shopping complexes and public spaces already provide access to free wifi. These were initiatives being offered by individual local councils with support of the central government. Therefore the applicability of this scheme to Malta may be of a limited extent.

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