Head of Europe's Digital Agenda voices concerns

Neelie Kroes, the vice-president at the EC responsible for the Digital Agenda, has given an update on the scheme’s progress – saying “the pressure is on” with concerns over broadband implementation.

While Kroes said at CeBIT in Hannover that the project, which covers interoperability and standards, enhancing e-skills, as well as high speed internet access across the continent is largely on track, it appears that providing access to high speed internet across the board is continuing to be problematic.

There are apparently 101 main actions that are required to be completed by the end of 2013 to meet overall targets, with further goals set by 2020, and despite falling behind in some areas Kroes is adamant that the EC is well on its way to completing the majority of these tasks.

“As is essential in such a setting, my team and I are systematically monitoring progress,” Kroes said.

“Therefore I can tell you that right now we are where we should be with 90 percent of the actions: 10 percent are already completed, and 80 percent are on track. Unfortunately the remaining 10 percent are delayed.

“We are not letting problems fester. We are working hard to get the delayed actions back on track and deliver as soon as possible.”

However, Kroes once again highlighted the importance of ensuring that a comprehensive broadband package for Europe is put together by goverments, with a million jobs potentially being pinned on a successful roll-out, even before taking into account the wider effects of a cutting edge broadband network.

“Broadband is Europe’s digital oxygen, essential for our prosperity and well-being and it is the solid foundation that can get everyone online,” she continued.

Kroes also called on individual governments to implement the DA recommendations and ensure that broadband networks are continually being put in place: “But having a broadband plan is different from having first class networks we can all use all the time. Europe needs better investment incentives and competition to get these networks rolled-out.

“Only a mix of the two will concentrate the resources and the energy needed for these investments and competitive broadband services,” she added.

While Kroes contends that Europe has some of the highest broadband penetration rates in the world,  it was made clear last Autumn that keeping up with high speed internet implementation is a growing cause for concern, with only five percent currently having access to over 30Mbps and 0.5 percent over 100Mbps, some way off from meeting further targets – meaning that longer term there could be a problem.

Kroes also mentioned the fact that Asia and American are continuing to develop their own networks of high-speed broadband connections, as well as voicing worries over Europe’s ability to keep up – backed by experts speaking to TechEye.

“There is a great variety in access speeds and quality, and these differences can’t be explained away by cultural or demographic reasons. There are market and policy problems too – and that’s what we are working on,” claimed Kroes.

In order to keep a good eye on where Europe stands with meeting targets, Kroes announced that an annual Digital Scoreboard will be published from May onwards, to keep track on various figures illustrating progress such as an increase in internet usage.

“I’m particularly delighted that the proportion of the population regularly using the Internet has increased by 5 percent in a single year to 65 percent. The percentage of non-users has decreased from 30 percent to 26 percent. And significantly disadvantaged groups are also progressing. The digital divide may well be closing.”

The Digital Agenda Assembly will also be meeting on 16 and 17 June this year in Brussels, to bring member states and EU institutions, citizens and industries up to speed with developments.