The European Parliament has approved the new ‘WiFi4EU’ initiative to install free Wi-Fi hotspots in public squares, parks, hospitals and other public spaces across the EU. More about WIFI4EU and WIFI4EU faq below.
In a statement, the parliament confirmed that the funds provided will need to be used in a “geographically balanced manner” in more than 6,000 communities across member states on a “first come, first served” basis to finance free wireless connections in centres of public life accessible to the general public.
In order to be eligible, public bodies need to cover operating costs for at least three years and offer free, easy to access and secure connectivity to users.
The parliament added that EU funds can 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 will likewise be excluded from financial support.
The WiFi4EU initiative was first announced by EC President Jean-Claude Juncker in his State of the Union Address in September 2016, with the Commission subsequently announcing that an agreement had been reached with the European Parliament and Council to allocate EUR 120 million to fund the scheme.
The Italian government has already launched its own public space hotspot project called Wi-Fi Italia to provide free, non-discriminatory access to local Wi-Fi access points but recently reached a deal with the EC to collaborate on the implementation of WiFi4EU.
What is the overall aim of the WiFi4EU initiative?
The WiFi4EU initiative aims to provide high-quality Internet access across the EU to citizens and visitors via free of charge Wi-Fi hotspots in public spaces such as parks, squares, administrations, libraries, and health centres. Vouchers funded the European Commission via the initiative will be awarded to support municipalities for the installation of the Wi-Fi hot spots in these centres of public life, using the services of WiFi installation companies.
Who can participate in the WiFi4EU initiative? WIFI4EU faq
The WiFi4EU initiative is open to public sector bodies from the EU Member States and participating EEA countries (Norway and Iceland). Only the municipalities (or equivalent local administrations) or associations of municipalities may participate. The specific list of entities eligible to apply for the fourth call was agreed by the Member States.
Each municipality can only benefit from one voucher during the entire duration of the WiFi4EU initiative. Therefore, municipalities awarded a voucher in a previous WiFi4EU call were not eligible to apply for a later call, whereas unsuccessful municipalities could try again in later calls.
What is the amount of the WiFi4EU voucher?
The amount of each voucher to be awarded is EUR 15,000.
Who are the municipalities and associations formed by municipalities allowed to register? How and when can we register?
In order to apply for the WiFi4EU initiative, all eligible municipalities (or associations of municipalities) included in the above-mentioned list (Q1.2) must first fill in their registration information via the WiFi4EU Portal.
Note that an EU Login linked to the municipality must be used for the registration process.
Go to the homepage of the WiFi4EU Portal to begin the registration. Then, select your municipality from the drop down list. Provide the required information about the municipality (including country, type of organization to be registered (municipality or association), address). WIFI4EU faq
Please include the contact information for the mayor/head of municipality/legal representative, i.e. the person who has the competence to sign the Grant Agreement.
We are a Wi-Fi installation company. How and when can we register?
Wi-Fi installation companies are encouraged to participate in the WiFi4EU initiative. A list of registered Wi-Fi installation companies is available on the WiFi4EU Portal. Municipalities may consult this list if they are awarded a voucher and are looking for Wi-Fi installation companies in their area which could provide the relevant services.
WiFi installation companies should register on the WiFi4EU Portal to express interest. Go to the homepage of the WiFi4EU Portal to begin the registration. Provide information about countr(ies) and region(s) of operation, as well as the company’s contact and bank details. Please do not register your company more than ONCE in the Portal.
How can I edit/update my municipality’s registration data in the Portal? WIFI4EU faq
Municipalities may modify almost all of their own data registered in the Portal at any time, except during the short period when a call is open and – for the winning municipalities – the time between their signing and INEA’s countersigning of the Grant Agreement. These edits may include e.g. updating of the mayor/head of municipality/legal representative’s name and/or e-mail address following municipal elections or internal changes in the organisation, or modifications to the contact person’s name and/or address, supporting documents, etc.
The only data that may not be directly edited/updated by the municipality is the e-mail address of the person who originally made the municipality’s registration in the Portal, because it is linked to the EU Login of the contact person. However, you may request INEA to take care of this update/change of the contact person’s e-mail address via the following procedure:
- Send an e-mail to INEA-CEF-WIFI4EU@ec.europa.eu with subject line “CONTACT PERSON UPDATE” ;
- Include the following information:
- Municipality name
- Country name
- Existing contact person’s e-mail address as visible in the WiFi4EU Portal
- New contact person’s e-mail address. (Note that it first must be registered in EU Login. For more information about creating an EU Login, see: https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/cas/manuals/EU_Login_Tutorial.pdf)
By sending the above-mentioned request, municipalities confirm that the information provided in the e-mail is correct and as such will be used for any relevant WiFi4EU-related correspondence/follow-up as needed. INEA will make the necessary changes upon your request and inform you directly once they are finalized.
We are a municipality. How and when can we apply?
In order to apply for a WiFi4EU call, municipalities must first register on the WiFi4EU Portal using a valid EU Login account.
After the call is open, municipalities will then be able to apply for the call by clicking the “Apply for voucher” button on the “My application” page of the Portal.
What documents are required for application? WIFI4EU faq
In order to be able to apply, municipalities must first complete their registration by uploading to the WiFi4EU Portal, the two required supporting documents:
- The complete “Proof of agreement” form, including a copy of the legal representative/mayor/head of municipality’s passport or ID
- The copy of an act of nomination or document establishing that the legal representative (mayor/head of municipality) legally represents the municipality.
If the legal representative wishes to mandate a person to sign the Grant Agreement on his/her behalf, two additional documents must also be supplied at the latest before signing the Grant Agreement:
- the “Authorised Person” form, signed by both the legal representative (i.e. mayor/head of municipality and by the authorised person who will sign the Grant Agreement.
- a copy of the Authorised person’s passport/ID.
The “Proof of agreement” and “Authorised Person” forms are available in all Member State languages from the WiFi4EU Portal under the “My registration” page.
All templates of the supporting documents are available on the INEA WiFi4EU page. Once completed, they must be uploaded as separate files in the WiFi4EU Portal under the “My registration” page, using a suitable format (.pdf, .png, or .jpg).
Is it possible to start work on our Wi-Fi network now and, if we get awarded a voucher, redeem it in the future?
Pursuant to the EU Financial Regulation, no grant may be awarded retroactively for actions already completed. In other words, an installation which has been fully completed and delivered before the signature of the Grant Agreement would not be entitled to receive a voucher.
SELECTION AND AWARD
How will the beneficiaries of a voucher be selected?
Municipalities will be selected on a first-come, first-served basis based on the date and time of the submission of their application (i.e. the time they pressed on the apply button in the Portal and NOT the submission date and time of their registration). See section 7 of the call text for more information about the selection process.
I cannot sign the Grant Agreement. What should I do? WIFI4EU faq
Signing of the Grant Agreement may be blocked in exceptional cases due to the way the registration was done in the Portal.
For example, if the email address of the mayor/head of municipality/legal representative is the same as the contact person’s email address but the names of mayor and contact person are different, the signing of the Grant Agreement may not be possible. To rectify this, the easiest solution is that the municipality changes the e-mail address of the mayor. Alternatively, it may authorize the contact person to be able to sign the Grant Agreement.
If you are having specific IT/technical issues, please contact the Helpdesk with an explanation of the problem and include screenshots as relevant.
Can I withdraw from the WiFi4EU initiative even after my Grant Agreement has been signed?
Yes, even after a municipality has signed the Grant Agreement in the WiFi4EU Portal, it may still decide to withdraw from the WiFi4EU initiative. In this case, the municipality must notify INEA (via INEA-CEF-WiFi4EU@ec.europa.eu) and provide an official letter signed by the mayor which clearly states the reasons of the withdrawal. INEA will then process the withdrawal and inform the municipality accordingly.
IMPLEMENTATION AND OPERATION
Our municipality was awarded a voucher and our Grant Agreement has been signed by both our municipality and the European Commission (INEA). What do we do next?
The municipality must ensure that the installation is completed and the installed network starts working within 18 months from the countersignature of the Grant Agreement.
First, the municipality must select a Wi-Fi installation company to carry out the work.
Each municipality may contract the Wi-Fi installation company of its choice to install the wireless equipment. Please note that the Commission/INEA will not intervene in the contractual relationship between the municipalities and their Wi-Fi installation company.
Municipalities will designate ‘centres of public life’ where the WiFi4EU hotspots will be installed. The Wi-Fi hotspots should be installed in the areas where no similar offers of free Wi-Fi connectivity already exist.
Municipalities are responsible for financing the Internet subscription and maintenance of the equipment in order to offer free and high-quality Wi-Fi for their citizens and visitors for at least three years after the installation of the network.
Municipalities should also clearly display the WiFi4EU visual identity in public spaces offering a WiFi4EU connection to the Internet. More information about the visual identity rules, as well as the WiFi4EU emblem/logo, is available on INEA’s WiFi4EU page.
Consult section 6.2 of the call text for more information about the specific technical requirements of the initiative.
What is the voucher intended to cover?
The WiFi4EU voucher is a lump sum payment intended to cover only the equipment and installation costs of Wi-Fi hotspots meeting the requirements defined in the call text and the Grant Agreement Annex I signed with the selected municipalities.
The equipment includes those items necessary for the deployment of the WiFi4EU network, such as power supply devices (e.g. Power over Ethernet (PoE) adapter, power adapter, PoE switch) or equipment to connect to Internet (e.g. routers, switches, firewalls).
The municipalities will be responsible for the costs of the connectivity (Internet subscription), maintenance and operation of the equipment for at least three years.
See also Q6 below for specific details on payments.
What is the voucher not intended to cover?
Equipment to extend the backhaul connectivity from another location to the WiFi4EU location is not covered by the voucher. The Internet connection should already be available at the place of deployment and the municipality is responsible for its maintenance for three years.
Can the project be broader than what is funded by the voucher? I.e. Is it possible to connect multiple centres of local public life?
Municipalities may use the WiFi4EU voucher to partially fund a project of higher value; therefore any equipment and installation costs beyond the value of the voucher would fall under the contract between the supplier and the municipality.
For example, it would be possible to connect several centres of local public life with one network (single captive portal) or several networks (different captive portals). However, if the costs for equipment and installation exceed the value of the voucher, the additional costs would need to be financed by the municipalities or by other national/regional funding sources.
Will existing public Wi-Fi networks be able to join the WiFi4EU initiative?
Existing public Wi-Fi networks will be able to join the WiFi4EU initiative, provided they respect the conditions and technical specifications described in the Annex I of the Grant Agreement, with a view not to alter the WiFi4EU main features, e.g. the access should be free of charge, without discriminatory conditions and would need to respect the branding requirements.
It will be also possible for existing networks to join the WiFi4EU initiative without using vouchers. We are working towards providing adequate solutions to the different situations that could be presented.
What is meant by the “minimum 30Mbps download speed” that the WiFi4EU networks should provide?
The WiFi4EU networks should be capable of providing a high-quality experience for all end users. Therefore, all winning municipalities must respect the conditions as indicated in section I.3 of the Grant Agreement: “the beneficiary shall subscribe to an offer equivalent to the highest speed available mass-market Internet connection in the area and in any event to one offering at least 30 Mbps download. The beneficiary shall also ensure that this backhaul speed is at least equivalent to that – if any – which is used by the beneficiary for its internal connectivity needs.”
In order to check the compliance with the above contractual requirement, Phase II of the WiFi4EU implementation (see FAQ 9.4) will allow monitoring of the quality of service requirements of WiFi4EU Access Points, pursuant to article I.3 of the Model Grant Agreement. For each network, the total cumulative speed of all Access Points (minimum 10) must be at least 30 Mbps. Municipalities are encouraged to ensure the highest speed possible in the interest of the end-users and in line with the connectivity targets set by the European Commission in Recital of Regulation (EU) 2017/1953.
What happens if the value of 30 Mbps download speed cannot be guaranteed?
According to the Annex I/article I.3 of the Grant Agreement, the municipality shall subscribe to a mass-market Internet connection offer equivalent to the highest speed available in the area, and ensure that this backhaul speed is at least equivalent to that (if any) used by the municipality for its internal connectivity needs and in any event to one offering at least 30 Mbps download. This requirement is therefore intended for the backhaul Internet connection, not per user. The backhaul connectivity reaching a 30 Mbps should be reached at the latest 18 months after the countersignature of the Grant Agreement. Temporary degradations of speed due to unexpected circumstances are accepted, but will be monitored and reported systematically. Degradation of speed should not be the consequence of reduced backhaul speed. The aim is not just to have a free Wi-Fi connection, but one that is fast and efficient.
What is “free access”? WIFI4EU faq
As stated in recital (4) of Regulation (EU) 2017/1953, the service provided by the WiFi4EU hotspots should be free of charge, i.e. “provided without corresponding remuneration, whether by direct payment or by other types of consideration, such as commercial advertising or the provision of personal data for commercial purposes” for the three first years of operation.
Any advertisement on the captive portal (i.e. the municipality’s web page that is displayed to newly connected users) constituting a source of revenue for the municipality or the obligation, for end users, to buy any product or service to access the network, would not qualify as “free of charge” in the meaning of this Regulation.
What is the validity of the WiFi4EU voucher? WIFI4EU faq
The WiFi4EU voucher is valid for 18 months as from the countersignature of the Grant Agreement, meaning that once the Grant Agreement has been countersigned, selected municipalities have 18 months to deploy the WiFi4EU network. Beyond this period, the voucher will expire and Wi-Fi installation companies will no longer be able to redeem it.
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