120m euros for free public wifi not the way to move Europe into digital age

Apr 25, 2017


Today MEPs in the parliament’s industry committee voted in favour of needless plans to subsidise public wifi in the EU. The original plans from the European Commission were submitted without an impact assessment and will draw €120 million in the first phase to equip up to 8,000 cities and municipalities with free wifi in libraries, parks and public transport. European Commission President Juncker himself launched the proposal in September last year.

Speaking against the proposals ECR Group shadow rapporteur Anneleen Van Bossuyt said:

“It is not up to Europe to install free Wi-Fi in municipalities that could easily do it themselves. Only cities and municipalities that do not currently offer Wi-Fi are able to claim this money. This is simply unfair on the proactive municipalities who have already invested their own money to provide Wi-Fi to their residents and tourists.

“This is just an attempt from the European Commission to buy popularity. After the fiasco of trying to offer all 18 year olds a free Interrail pass, there is now free wifi. Who still really believes that this is free? Taxpayers are footing the bill.”
“Europe needs to analyse where money is best invested and what the precise impact is. However, without an impact assessment it is difficult to predict who exactly will get the free wifi. Certainly, it will go to municipalities in EU Member States that do not invest in the internet. This will punish the early movers.

In addition, the municipalities who receive the free Wi-Fi systems will be burdened with the running costs.
VanBossuyt continued: “While municipalities have to pay the running costs themselves the parliament prohibits them from imposing restrictions on usage, both in terms of consumption and content. For example, European tax money can be used to spend hours downloading movies or browsing pornographic websites. This is completely irresponsible and impossible to justify.

“If Europe really wants to expand the digital economy, it needs to invest in high-speed internet and 5G, not in a wasteful attempts at self promotion.”