The European Commission has launched the WiFi4EU web portal. As of now, municipalities all over Europe are invited to register their details ahead of the first call for projects in mid-May, for the chance to benefit from EU financing to build free public wireless internet hotspots.
The WiFi4EU programme offers vouchers worth €15,000 for municipalities to set up Wi-Fi hotspots in public spaces, including libraries, museums, public parks, squares. As stated by President Jean-Claude Juncker, the WiFi4EU initiative aims at connecting "every European village and every city with free wireless internet access around the main centres of public life by 2020."
Municipalities can use the WiFi4EU vouchers to purchase and install Wi-Fi equipment (wireless access points) in their chosen centres of local public life. Costs for maintaining the network will be covered by the municipality.
Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip said: "By opening the WiFi4EU portal today, we are taking a concrete step towards helping municipalities provide free Wi-Fi. While this is important progress, I also strongly encourage the European Parliament and Council to conclude work on the proposed telecoms code to ensure high-speed connectivity across the whole of the EU. This includes Europe-wide coordination of spectrum, and forcefully stimulating investments in the high-capacity networks that Europe needs.
Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel added: "The WiFi4EU initiative will give thousands of Europeans free internet access in public spaces across the EU. Thanks to the WiFi4EU programme, local communities will be empowered to bring connectivity closer to citizens, allowing them to fully benefit from the endless opportunities of digitisation. It is a concrete step towards the realisation of the Digital Single Market."
€120 million is available from the EU budget until 2020 to fund equipment for public free Wi-Fi services in up to 8,000 municipalities in all Member States as well as Norway and Iceland.
How to apply for a WiFi4EU voucher?
Registration phase: As of 20 March 2018, municipalities should sign up on the www.WiFi4EU.eu portal;
Application phase: In mid-May 2018, the first call will be launched and registered municipalities can apply for a first lot of 1,000 WiFi4EU vouchers (€15,000 each). The vouchers will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis;
Assignment phase: ensuring a geographic balance, the Commission will announce the 1,000 municipalities that will receive funding through the first call. Each participating country will receive at least 15 vouchers.
In the coming two years, four more WiFi4EU calls will be launched.
WiFi4EU-funded networks will be free of charge, free of advertising and free of personal data harvesting. Funding will only be provided to networks that do not duplicate existing free private or public offers with a similar quality in the same public space.
Announced by President Juncker in his State of the Union address in September 2016, the WiFi4EU initiative is part of the ambitious overhaul of EU telecoms rules including new measures to meet Europeans' growing connectivity needs and boost Europe's competitiveness.
The EU has been quick to achieve important agreements on the end of roaming charges on 15 June 2017 for all travellers in the EU, on the portability of content which will allow as of early 2018 Europeans to travel with the films, the music, the video games or the e-books they have subscribed to at home and on the release of the 700 MHz band for the development of 5G and new online services.
Negotiations over 14 legislative proposals in the Digital Single Market strategy – one of the top priorities of the Juncker Commission – are ongoing. The Commission has encouraged the European Parliament and the Council to swiftly act on all of the proposals already presented.
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