New Wi-Fi fund welcomed

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Alison Elvey

A Truro-based grants specialist has welcomed a new EU fund providing free Wi-Fi to over 6,000 communities.

The new €120 million (£108 million) European Commission programme, which opens later this year, will help provide free public Wi-Fi networks across Europe.

Promoting “Connectivity for a European Gigabit Society”, the new programme called WiFi4EU will seek to provide a digital single market by promoting free Wi-Fi connectivity for citizens and visitors in public spaces such as parks, squares, public building, libraries, health centres, and museums everywhere in Europe.

The €120 million WiFi4EU voucher scheme will connect 6,000-8,000 communities resulting in 40-50 million high speed Wi-Fi connections per day by 2020.

Alison Elvey, grants specialist at Robinson Reed Layton, commented: “It would be a real asset to Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly to have free Wi-Fi access available in its towns and communities.”

In his State of the Union Speech in September 2016, the President of the European Union, Jean Claude Junker, announced that: “Everyone benefiting from connectivity means that it should not matter where you live or how much you earn. So we propose today to equip every European village and every city with free wireless internet access around the main centres of public life by 2020.”

The WiFi4EU scheme will be open to public sector bodies – typically local authorities, libraries, health centres, etc. It will fund up to 100% (max: €20k per community) of the equipment and installation costs (Internet access points), while the beneficiary will pay for the connectivity (Internet subscription) and maintenance of the equipment for three years.

The first pilot call for projects is expected later this year with a budget of €20 million, focusing on local public authority applicants and expected to assist 1,000 local communities.

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.

Elvey added “It’s refreshing that the funds will be delivered through a simple and streamlined process with online applications, voucher payments and light-touch monitoring requirements.  This should make the funding easily accessible for local authorities and communities that want to take part.”

Project promoters applying to the scheme should propose to equip areas where a free public or a private Wi-Fi hotspot offering similar characteristics does not already exist.