European citizens will soon benefit from the WiFi4EU initiative which supports installing free public Wi-Fi hotspots in local communities across the EU: in public squares, town halls, parks, libraries, and other public spaces.
On 29 May, the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission reached a political agreement on the WiFi4EU initiative and its funding. According to the agreement, the three institutions will work together to ensure €120 million in funding for setting up wireless hotspots across the EU in 6,000 to 8,000 municipalities by 2020.
Who will benefit from the WiFi4EU programme?
The WiFi4EU funding will be granted in a geographically balanced manner, so that high-speed connections can benefit both residents and visitors of local communities across the EU. It is estimated around 6,000 to 8,000 local communities will be benefiting from the WiFi4EU scheme by 2020.
Who can apply?
The WiFi4EU scheme will be open to public sector bodies, such as municipalities, public libraries, hospitals, etc.
Each Member State will have a certain amount of vouchers available. The details are not set yet – this will be decided together with the Member States.
The public spaces where the WiFi4EU hotspots will be installed is up to the beneficiaries (e.g. local authorities). It could be set up in train stations, parks, libraries, or any other public spaces.
READ MORE: EU reaches deal on EUR 120 mln worth ‘WiFi4EU’ for public free Wi-Fi services
Additionally, the initiative is also open to existing public networks – the local authorities can join of WiFi4EU hotspots, if they wish to do so. This will provide also the existing public networks a unified authentication system for the end-users so that, after their first connection, they will be able to connect automatically to the same hotspot or to any other WiFi4EU hotspot in Europe.
When will the first call be published?
When the new legislation enters into force (after the summer), the Commission can finalise the necessary administrative steps: amendment to the Connecting Europe Facility work programme which is the basis for funding the initiative, publication of the applicants’ website, etc.
Depending on these necessary steps, the first call could be launched towards the end of the year or early 2018.
Are there any specific prescriptions for the projects?
The public institutions applying for the scheme should propose to equip areas where similar offers of free Wi-Fi connectivity do not exist in the same location.
Beneficiaries will commit to provide free and high-quality Wi-Fi connectivity for their citizens and visitors for at least 3 years.
How to apply for WiFi4EU?
There will be a dedicated online platform prepared for applicants. The projects will be selected on a first-come, first-serve basis, while ensuring all Member States will benefit from the scheme.
What will the EU fund?
The EU will fund the equipment and installation costs of Wi-Fi hotspots (internet access points), while the beneficiary (e.g. municipality or any other local public institution) will pay for the connectivity (internet subscription) and maintenance of the equipment.
What is the budget of WiFi4EU?
€120 million in total, as proposed by the European Commission last year. This was endorsed by the three institutions subject to the finalisation of the Multiannual Financial Framework negotiations and budgetary procedure.
From where will the budget come?
The funding will be taken from the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF – Telecom section).
As part of the Multiannual Financial Framework review, the Wifi4EU initiative is expected to be reinforced with an additional €25 Million to €50 Million from outside CEF.
How will the operators be involved?
Each beneficiary (e.g. municipality or any other local public institution) will contract the telecom operator of their choice which will ensure the installation and functioning of Wi-Fi connection for at least 3 years.
What are the next steps?
European Parliament and Council will formally approve the new legislation as soon as possible, and the text is expected to be officially published (and enter into force) after the summer – a necessary step before the financing decision is taken and the first call for projects can be launched.