European leaders want broadband for all

Members of the European Commission are set to debate measures to make broadband available to everyone across the European Union.

Currently the EC's Universal Service Obligation (USO) requires telecoms companies to grant all EU citizens access to basic telephone services.

However, the EC is now reviewing the USO to determine whether it needs to rewritten to include basic broadband provision.

The report claims that from 2003 to 2007 broadband use in the EU tripled to 36 per cent of households. Within this, though, the EC notes "striking gaps" among member states regarding coverage.

In Denmark, Luxembourg and Belgium, 100 per cent of the population have access to broadband, whereas 60 per cent of Romanians cannot get broadband access.

Even in nations which boast high broadband penetration, such as Germany and Italy, about 12 per cent of the population do not have access to high-speed services.

"High-speed internet is the passport to the Information Society and an essential condition for economic growth," said EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding.

"This is why it is this Commission's policy to make broadband internet for all Europeans happen by 2010."

A communique on the subject is expected in 2009, with legislation slated to follow in 2010.

Gordon Brown recently unveiled measures to get everyone in the UK connected to the internet by offering low-income families IT vouchers worth between 100 and 700, while London mayor Boris Johnson pondered blanket Wi-Fi across the capital.