The Malta Independent 18 November 2017, Saturday

'Free wifi for Europeans' plan gains MEPs backing

Thursday, 14 September 2017, 09:37 Last update: about 3 months ago

A financial scheme for local wireless access points in the EU, free of charge and offered without discrimination, is on its way, following a vote by the European Parliament on Tuesday.

The funds will be used in a "geographically balanced manner" in more than 6000 communities across member states on a "first come, first served" basis to finance free wireless connections in centres of public life, including outdoor spaces accessible to the general public (libraries, public administrations, hospitals etc.

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The budget of the WiFi4EU scheme is €120 million between 2017-2019, to support the installation of state-of-the-art Wi-Fi equipment in the centres of community life.

To be eligible, public bodies should cover operating costs for at least three years and offer free, easy to access and secure connectivity to users.

Local authorities will be encouraged to develop and promote their own digital services in areas such as e-government, e-health and e-tourism through a dedicated app.

EU funds can also only be used if commercial advertising or the use of personal data for commercial purposes are excluded. Projects duplicating similar free private or public offers in the same area are excluded from this financial support.

Access should be provided in the relevant languages of the member state concerned and, if possible, in other official languages of the EU institutions.

The WiFi4EU scheme will be delivered through simple and non-bureaucratic procedures such as online applications, payments by vouchers and light-touch monitoring requirements.

The first call for projects is expected to be launched towards the end of 2017 or early 2018. 
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