Modern broadband Internet access has had a transformative effect on business, economics and education in countless communities across the globe. In recent years, many governing bodies have set ambitious goals for expanding broadband access to businesses and individuals in hopes of facilitating growth and development in their area. While many places in America are still struggling to keep up with the increasing demand for fast, reliable broadband access, the executive body of the European Union is taking steps to ensure that all of its member nations have access to high-speed, fiber-powered Internet service.
In September, the EU is expected to announce an overhaul of its telecom laws that will add affordable broadband internet to its list of guaranteed “universal service rules.” Meanwhile, other outmoded forms of communication such as public pay phones will be removed from the list of universal services. The proposal will also include an Internet speed target of 100 megabits per second that countries are expected to reach by 2025.
The financial burden of reaching these universal broadband access goals will be placed on national governments, rather than on private telecom companies. Likewise, the changes in the EU telecom laws are expected to receive some pushback from certain countries. In spite of the likely controversy, the European Commission remains committed to their assertion that, “given its wide societal and economic benefits,” it should be up to national governments, rather than private enterprises, to finance broadband infrastructure improvements.
Currently, approximately 97 percent of homes in the EU are already covered by broadband access. In many rural areas, however, that coverage remains unreliable or even nonexistent. The European Commission is also encouraging governments to replace aging copper infrastructure with faster fiber optic networks as they expand their service.
It remains to be seen whether the Federal Government here in America might one day enact similar legislation to push state governments to adopt fast, affordable broadband Internet as well. More than likely, it will be up to the free market to and local municipalities to lead the charge for universal affordable broadband access instead.