european_flag.gif

european_flag.gifThe
European Commission is considering making broadband access available
for everyone in Europe, with an eye to setting the legislations up by
2010.

Broadband’s
swift growth has been highlighted in a tri-annual review of the
ground-level telecoms systems that Europeans can expect.

Statistics
indicate that about 36 per cent of households in EU nations have broadband –
and EC rules dictate that once a telecoms service is used by a
majority of Europeans, it becomes one that must be available to all.

"High-speed
internet is the passport to the Information Society and an essential
condition for economic growth," said Viviane Reding, EU
Telecoms Commissioner in a statement announcing the review. "This
is why it is this Commission’s policy to make broadband internet for
all Europeans happen by 2010."

The EC’s
Universal Service Obligations (USO) state that all citizens should be
able to access basic telephone services, and include a clause that
the line must be good enough to "permit functional Internet
access". In the UK, that’s been interpreted as a line
that can handle 28.8kb.

But
the USO is reviewed every three years, and the latest review said
that broadband use is growing at a rate that soon means more
Europeans will be using it than not – tripling from 2003-2007
and showing an annual growth rate of 20 per cent. Some countries, such as
Luxembourg, Belgium and Denmark, are so well-connected that 100 per cent of
the population can get broadband if they wish. (Romania, by contrast,
can only offer it to 40 per cent of its population, and even the likes of
Germany and Italy are hanging around the 85 per cent mark.)

The EC is
now reviewing the USO to decide if it needs to be re-written to make
telecoms firms offer full broadband support, regardless of potential
profit, as well as deciding if dial-up is now too archaic to
sufficiently handle ever-more complex Web content. It’s
inviting submissions from telecoms firms, governments and citizens,
with an aim to produce a communiqué in 2009 and –
perhaps – legislation in 2010.