EU bodies reach deal on WIFI4EU initiative

Under the initiative, local authorities across all EU member states will be able to apply for funding to provide free WiFi in main centres

The EU aims to equip every European city and village with free WiFi access by 2020
The EU aims to equip every European city and village with free WiFi access by 2020

A new deal has been reached between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on last year’s proposed €120 million WiFi4EU initiative, which aims to equip “every European village and every city with free [WiFi] internet access around the main centres of public life” by 2020.

The plan was first officially proposed in September 2016 as part of the European Commission’s new “Gigabit Society” proposals, which separately included a new target for “all European households” to get a minimum Internet download speed of 100Mbps+ by 2025.

At the time the WiFi4EU initiative lacked much in the way of detail, although under the new agreement it has been confirmed that an overall amount of €120 million shall be assigned to fund the necessary equipment for public free WiFi services in 6,000 to 8,000 municipalities across all member states.

Local authorities will be able to apply for funding once the system is set up, although the “specific sources of the funding” have yet to be agreed. As you’d expect the funding will only be available to areas where a similar public or private offer does not yet exist.

The informal deal includes:

  • The creation of a single authentication system valid throughout the EU;
  • Funds to be deployed in a “geographically balanced manner” across member states and on a “first come, first served” basis;
  • At Parliament’s insistence, public wireless access points (libraries, public administrations, hospitals) may be funded only if users are allowed to connect without any direct or indirect payment (commercial advertising or use of personal data for commercial purposes);
  • Public bodies should cover operating costs for at least three years and offer a free, easy to access and secure connectivity to users to be eligible, and;
  • Projects duplicating similar free private or public offers in the same area are excluded from this financial support.

The draft deal must now be rubber stamped by the Parliament and the Council before the legislation can enter into force.