After New Europe exposed the problems of first call for WiFi4EU project, which aims to install free public Wi-Fi hotspots in public squares, libraries, town halls or other places of public interest, the European Commission has gone back to square one. The vouchers from the first round of applications will be added to the budget for the next call.

On June 14, Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, in charge of the Digital Economy and Society, issued a statement following the cancellation of the first call for applications for free Wi-Fi vouchers. Gabriel explained that even though, “The programme generated an enormous amount of interest,” with more than 18,000 municipalities, around a quarter of all in Europe, expressed their interest, the call had to be closed after “information received from a third party about a technical issue.”

Gabriel’s statement continues:

“During the investigation, the Commission identified a flaw in the software supplied by contractors. This issue allowed some municipalities to apply in good faith before the call was opened, while it prevented others from doing so once the call had opened.

The Commission is strongly attached to the principles of fairness, transparency and reliability. Therefore, as this technical issue prevented all municipalities from applying on an equal basis, I have asked my services to cancel this first call. The vouchers from this first round of applications will be added to the budget for the next call.

As of today we are informing all municipalities registered on the portal of this decision. Their registrations will remain valid for future calls, so municipalities can apply again with one click of a button. Those that have not yet registered on the portal will be able to do so when it re-opens before the next call in autumn 2018, once the IT problems have been fully resolved.

The allocation of the first vouchers was already planned to take place after the summer, therefore the current issue has not caused significant delay to the programme.”

New Europe has requested more information on the contractor of the original (now closed) WiFi4EU portal, and the implications of the technical failure on the contractor’s part, but no such information was provided. No further information was also provided as to the cost of the project, or whether a new contractor will be put in place or whether the same contractor will continue the project.

The European Commission’s DiscoverEU, which will allow for 15,000 young people to receive a travel pass for this summer, opens for applications on July 1 and all eyes are now on this. The Commission has designed the process in a way to avoid similar issues and has not made the application process first-come-first-served. The more critical issue, though, will be the handling of the personal data of the tens of thousands of youths that will apply. Information suggests that the DiscoverEU platform has been designed internally and not with the help of an external third-party.