A new European Union scheme to finance free wireless connections will be used in a “geographically balanced manner” in more than 6,000 communities across member states on a “first come, first served” basis.
“The WIFI4EU Initiative was a strong political vision that will soon become a concrete reality throughout the EU, assuring that, regardless of where they live or how much they earn, every European benefits from high quality WIFI connectivity. This will improve the European Gigabit Society, rendering it economically competitive and socially inclusive,” said MEP Carlos Zorrinho (S&D, PT), rapporteur.
According to the resolution, which was approved with 582 votes to 98 and 9 abstentions, public bodies – to be eligible – should cover operating costs for at least three years and offer free, easy to access and secure connectivity to users. Also, EU funds can only be used if commercial advertising or the use of personal data for commercial purposes are excluded.
Flemish MEP Anneleen Van Bossuyt, who chairs the parliament’s internal market committee, however, is one of the most vocal opponents of the new scheme.
Speaking after the vote, Van Bossuyt said: “Member States have to live within their means but the EU happily continues to offer bribes to citizens for popularity by providing services that people don’t actually need. Free rail passes, free Wi-Fi, free museums – does anyone really believe that this is free? Taxpayers are footing the bill.”
“If Europe really wants to expand the digital economy, it needs to invest in high-speed internet and 5G, not in wasteful attempts at self-promotion.”