The Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) that was to have provided funding to the 27 EU member states to help reach the Digital Agenda 2020 goals of every property in the EU having access to a 30 Mbps or faster connection by 2020 is now in disarray. The facility originally had a proposed €9 billion budget but the first austerity budget the EU has faced now sees the amount available slashed to €1 billion.
Many broadband campaigners had hopes that EU involvement might have broken the stranglehold of the traditional telecoms operators across Europe and helped to boost community and alt-net style solutions. Alas with the very limited funding now available it is all but a foregone conclusion that only small amounts will be handed out as either subsidy to existing commercial operators or one or two vanity projects in each EU member state. Neelie Kroes goes further suggesting on twitter than only funding for services like eProcurement eInvoicing will happen, with no broadband infrastructure investment at all.
"But this funding will have to be exclusively for digital services: because such a smaller sum does not leave room for investing in broadband networks. I regret that: because broadband is essential for a digital single market, the rails on which all tomorrow’s digital services will run; and this could have been an innovative and highly-market oriented way to deliver it, almost budget-neutral in the long run.
Nonetheless, we have all agreed on broadband targets for Europe, including fast broadband coverage for all by 2020. Those agreed objectives are now harder to reach, but we should stay focused on that goal. I will keep fighting, and I will support innovations that help roll out fast broadband underserved areas: the Connecting Europe Facility was an important tool to move towards that goal, but not the only one."Blog of Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission
This crippling of the broadband budget is part of the 3.3% reduction in the EU budget (a reduction of €32bn) and has been hailed as a victory by David Cameron. In theory the UK already has £300m of money earmarked for broadband between 2015-2017 which would come from the TV license, which was most likely going to be spent increasing speeds for those in parts of the UK that had only just met the 2 Mbps USC due by 2015.
The reason broadband may have lost out is that it was up against much more established lobbying groups and politicians in the UK may wholeheartedly believe the rhetoric that the UK will have the best broadband in Europe by 2015. There were warnings that the CEF monies were under threat back in October last year.