The state of play in high speed internet connectivity
Firstly, where are we today? After my visit to the USA last week, I am more than ever convinced that Europe is doing well on broadband availability and take-up. In July 2007, we had over 90 million connections in the EU25, 10 million up on January 2007. The average penetration rate of the 27 is at 18% and rising fast. Five European countries are world leaders (Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland and Belgium) ahead of even South Korea and Japan, while the USA has slipped back to 15th place.
It has to be recognised that the EU average is being brought down by the slower moving EU markets. More than 30 percentage points separate the leading and the last-placed Member States. The single most important factor explaining this gap is lack of effective competition on the market because access regulation has not been effectively implemented.
In December, in its latest Lisbon Strategy update, the European Commission laid down a challenge to all Member States to move ahead on broadband take-up, to achieve a 30% penetration rate by 2010 and to embrace this target in their National Lisbon Strategies this year.
To assist this process, by summer in the mid-term review of the i2010 strategy, I will publish a new indicator of broadband take-up in Europe that compares national performance, not only on broadband penetration but also geographic coverage, speed, competition and price.