While we have all got very excited about the prospect of more EU money to help fund further broadband improvements in the UK, particularly in the period 2015 to 2020, it seems the availability and release of the €9.2bn from the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) budget of €50bn is not a foregone conclusion.
Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda last week highlighted that she needs the help of the telecoms operators and lobbyists to ensure that the funds are released for broadband projects and not re-purposed for other infrastructure projects such as energy and transport infrastructure.
Concerns that the amount available might shrink were raised in September and it seems pressure on the funds has not diminished. A major issue is that many politicians do not understand the reasons why some are so passionate about improving broadband access for all residents and businesses in the EU. The problem is often that as broadband is such a young type of infrastructure the century or so of lobbying that has meant people understand benefits from road/rail and power infrastructure has not entered into the broadband lobbying language yet.
"Those Governments that adopt a more holistic view of society and the benefits that spread across the economy will realise the importance of maintaining the CEF for network build. We very much need to build communication networks for the future that look beyond the next quarter’s returns and that can put Europe on the front foot for economic growth and innovation."Karin Ahl, President of the FTTH Council Europe
Areas such as telemedicine are starting to show their potential in terms of reducing healthcare costs while also improving the quality of life of an increasingly ageing population, and if European manufacturers of hardware and software can find a ready market close to home, the chances of the industry leading the world rather than just being an ideas factory increase.