It is currently estimated that some 30-40% of Europeans are denied access to the benefits of the information society. The reasons are various but include the costs, lack of appropriate education and skills, disability and age. Access to simple Internet via dial-up modem is available to anyone having a fixed line phone and this covers most of Europe. However, technology has moved on and a combination of DSL, cable and FTTH technologies now mean that broadband is available to many Europeans.
Nevertheless, although the main concern now rests with take-up rather than access to broadband, it remains the case that individuals, communities and enterprises throughout Europe lie beyond affordable reach of broadband networks. The Digital Divide Forum Report claimed that “at least 4.7 million would-be broadband users will be excluded by commercial rollout in 2013 in the EU25.” The Report went on to say that “Under these circumstances, public intervention may be considered desirable or necessary”. The European Commission has recently opened the debate as to whether the Universal Service Obligation (USO) should be extended to include ‘basic’ broadband. You can read more about this and take part in a user survey at the European Broadband Portal at www.broadband-europe.eu.
While many express concern at a growing Digital Divide (between people, communities and regions) resulting from limited extension of broadband networks, technology continues to progress and advances are now being made to roll out Next Generation Networks (NGNs) employing FTTP technology and providing very high bandwidth. Since Europe lags behind the US and Asia in this regard, it is clear that such networks will have an important impact on competitiveness, jobs and inclusion in the near future.
Most regions are concerned with competitiveness, jobs and inclusion and should ensure they are well informed on the issues relating to them – especially the USO and what is could mean of extended to include broadband, and the state of the art with respect to NGA and what role the regions should play in this unfolding scenario.
This workshop brings together well-informed commentators in these important fields and will provide opportunities to hear their views and to engage them in debate through Round Table Discussions and Question & Answer sessions.For more information on the association, contact:
eris@ - European Regional Information Society Association
24, Boulevard de l'Empereur B-1000 Brussels
Ph: +32 2 230 03 25 Fax: +32 2 230 92 01