In rural and remote areas, businesses and people have a real need for high speed connections in order to thrive. This is why the European Union has set up broadband competencies offices (BCO), officially launched on 20 November 2017, to advise local and regional authorities on ways to invest effectively in broadband, and help citizens and businesses get better access to broadband services.
Digitization and connectivity translate into new businesses; jobs and prosperity follow. Improving broadband connectivity in rural areas is a key element in their development, and the broadband competence offices were set up to help achieve this goal. Part of a network, broadband competencies offices provide guidance to broadband project promoters, public or private, users or investors. Their aim is to gather all information related to broadband, such as funding, technology or regulatory issues, in one single point of contact within the EU countries. At the end of the first year of operations, the BCO Network and Support Facility were officially launched on 20 November at the Broadband Days 2017.
High speed internet access crucial for agriculture and vibrant rural areas
High speed internet access, providing the quality and responsiveness only very high-capacity broadband networks can provide, is crucial for the future of agriculture, linked to new digital applications like precision farming.
Broadband access is also the basis for e-services that could help overcome less optimal access to infrastructure and services in many rural areas, contributing to making rural areas an attractive place to live and work – to young people as well as the older generation – and helping to reduce the pressure in cities. For example, the European Union’s smart villages initiative looks into how to revitalise rural services through digital and social innovation.
Only 40% of rural households have high speed internet access, compared to 76% of total European Union households. The urban-rural digital divide is not just an imbalance of technology or connectivity: it is an imbalance of opportunity. To overcome the divide, through its structural and investment funds programmes, the European Union has allocated around €6 billion of funding to finance high speed broadband roll-out and other digital infrastructure, in particular in rural and peripheral areas, for the period 2014-2020. This is a significant increase on the €2.7bn invested in the previous budget period. Of this, around €1bn comes directly from the European agricultural fund for rural development (EAFRD).
20 November 2017