[euractiv] The incoming Spanish EU Presidency wants to extend universal service requirements to broadband Internet, making it compulsory for member states to make the service available in every corner of their territory. The move is aimed at improving Web access in rural areas but has raised a number of concerns for the telecoms industry.
The European Commission estimates that only 70% of the population of the EU's countryside areas can rely on existing infrastructure to access the Internet via a high-speed connection.
The situation represents a new form of economic and social division between EU citizens as new services are made available on the Web.
To address this 'digital divide', Spain, which assumes the EU's rotating presidency in the first half of 2010, is considering obliging member states to provide nationwide broadband coverage. Its plans are shared by Belgium and Hungary, which take on the EU presidency after Spain. All three countries are pursuing a common 'trio' programme.
The proposed means of achieving this goal is the extension of universal service provision to high-speed Internet. "The presidencies will launch work on the new scope of the universal service in electronic communications and on the incorporation of broadband in the scope of universal service," reads the draft programmePdf external of the EU Council agreed for the next 18 months.
EU plans to make high-speed Internet compulsory