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European Commission

Neelie Kroes

Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda

Connecting Europe with fast broadband

Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) conference

Brussels, 2 October 2012

Ladies and gentlemen,

It's time to give our economy an upgrade.

The digital world makes us more competitive. Doing more online means better businesses, better opportunities, and better public services.

So: are we going to take our place as the connected, competitive continent? Or are we going to stay antiquated and analogue?

The CEF sets aside nine billion euros for digital public services and high-speed broadband. Today I want to make three points.

First, the money for broadband - one billion euros per year - is an investment worth making. ICT investment is the most productive you can get; it builds growth and it creates jobs.

For example, in Germany alone, up to 2020, broadband upgrade plans could boost the economy by 170 billion euros, and create nearly a million jobs.

And no wonder!

Think of the extra services fast broadband enables. In the EU, eProcurement could save 100 billion euros a year; cloud computing 250 billion. E-Health, eGovernment, smart cities: they can generate jobs, improve lives, and make public funds work harder.

All of those innovations are worth investing in: but they all need fast internet.

The fact is we are far from hitting the ceiling of Internet innovation. Let's not tie ourselves down with slow connections.

Second: remember financial instruments attract significant private sector leverage: so every cent works around seven times harder. Every Member State will get back more total investment than they put in.

And remember, a financial instrument isn't a donation, it's a loan. The EU budget gets its money back: with interest.

In fact, I want all the broadband funding via those financial instruments. For maximum leverage, coverage, and taxpayer value.

Third: you only get those benefits at EU scale. Through the EIB; and using EU-wide funding schemes to draw in long-term investors, such as institutions like the Caisse des Dépôts. National funding alone doesn't offer markets the same economies of scale, or diversity of risk; and it won't attract as much public and private funding. If this support isn't European, it won't happen.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In an economic crisis, we must look to tomorrow's growth.

If we don't invest in tomorrow: we stay stuck in the past.

Today, networks rarely go down. But when they do, already it's devastating.

And demand for internet is growing exponentially. We can't condemn our people to a Europe of old, congested, unreliable networks. To a world of blackouts and blackspots. They're used to smart phones: they don't want to go back to "dumb-phones". This year, we've seen how much citizens care about the online world: let's keep it going for them.

And remember, the single market is our crown jewel. But, as more and more services go online, the single market only works if it's digital.

To guarantee Europe's economic future, we must guarantee fast, effective broadband and high-quality digital services. That will only happen with support that's rapid, cost-effective, and European. Through the Connecting Europe Facility.

Thank you.


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