Published on Digital Development

Connecting Europe’s underserved communities to broadband

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The benefits of broadband Internet are well-documented: for each 10-percent increase in penetration, a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) can increase by as much as 1.5 percent. In addition, broadband Internet brings citizens access to new job opportunities, health services and possibilities for digital engagement with their government.
Broadband Internet can help bring jobs
to underserved areas, boosting
economic prospects.
However, citizens of the European Union (EU) who live in rural and economically disadvantaged areas have little access to broadband Internet, and therefore miss out on the wide range of opportunities it offers. Today, only 18 percent of rural households in Europe have access to these services.
As a result of these gaps and challenges, the European Commission is partnering with the World Bank and others on a new “Connected Communities” initiative. This large-scale project will connect towns and cities to broadband partnerships and operators, offering critical advice and specific business models to finally bring fast Internet to underserved communities.
 “Our partnership with the EU on broadband Internet is of core strategic importance to the World Bank and its clients,” said Carlo Maria Rossotto, Lead ICT Specialist for the World Bank’s Transport and ICT Global Practice. “We see an opportunity to collaborate on knowledge generation and innovative funding mechanisms that can accelerate high-speed Internet access in developing countries.”
The World Bank will bring deep technical assistance and global experience to the “Connected Communities” initiative. Our team of seasoned practitioners and policy experts will cooperate with the European Commission to help develop business models, scale up project components, and explore private and public financing options.
“Through the introduction of competition and appropriate regulatory incentives, a country like Lithuania has now the highest fiber-to-the-home penetration in Europe, and Romania has some of the fastest Internet infrastructure in the continent,” explained Randeep Sudan, ICT Practice Manager. “The chance to cooperate with the European Union to share our global knowledge, while learning from these and other best practice cases, will be highly beneficial for developing countries that wish to embrace the digital economy.”
The initiative’s targets for its digital agenda include:
  • 100 percent of EU households have 30 megabits per second (mbps) broadband by 2020 (currently 64 percent of households)
  • 50 percent of EU households have 100 mbps broadband by 2020 (currently only three percent of households)  
The “Connected Communities” initiative will bring together a diverse range of governments, organizations, companies and other parties to collaborate on key local, national and regional challenges. Through this cooperation, the European Commission, World Bank and other partners will offer practical solutions and financing to help isolated and underserved communities achieve their vision for broadband Internet.


Roger Burks

Online Communications Officer

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