Living in towns and cities across Europe, internet access can often be taken for granted. Whether it’s 4G connectivity or a Wi-Fi hotspot, you’re never far from a quick and easy way to connect. However, driving out towards the countryside towards more remote villages can see mobile signal become weak and hotspots few and far between.
To solve this issue and to ensure that everyone across Europe has access to the internet, the EU voted to launch the WiFi4EU initiative. The project will cost around €120 million and while it was first mentioned in 2016, funds are expected to be handed out from 15th May 2018 onwards.
The main aim of the initiative is to deliver free, quality internet to public areas such as libraries and train stations in communities that don’t typically have easy access to the internet. It’s estimated that the project will help 6,000 to 8,000 local communities across Europe.
The EU’s budget will cover the cost of installation and the equipment required to create a Wi-Fi hotspot. However, they don’t pay for the continued connectivity or any maintenance after the set-up.
While the project looks to build a fully connected Europe, there are critics who believe that the €120 million budget would be better spent elsewhere, such as investing in 5G, the fifth generation of mobile networks.
5G is currently being tested across the world and many are saying it will become a necessity if innovations such as autonomous cars become the norm. Tech like this needs a constant, guaranteed connection to operate safely and it’s believed that 5G can offer just that. However, Mariya Gabriel European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society was quoted defending the initiative, saying:
“There are big differences between towns and rural villages, and we wish to enable people living in these regions to enjoy quality Internet connectivity. We’re not going to cover areas that are already covered”
The project is going to support 1,000 communities in EU member states on a first-come, first-served basis. Each chosen one will receive a €15,000 voucher that can be used to help choose and pay for the Wi-Fi hotspot.
Alesia Abramovich, Principal Recruitment Consultant at Eurostaff commented on the initiative saying:
“This project will help thousands of people across Europe gain better access to the internet. With digital skills being paramount in a majority of job markets around the world, it gives everyone the chance to find new and exciting careers they may not have discovered before.”
This new initiative is only available to member states of the EU, but already many have jumped at the project. However, with Brexit around the corner, it’s not yet known whether Britain will
be able to take part. If WiFi4EU is to be offered throughout the UK, then it will have to be negotiated into any Brexit deal.