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Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda
Speech Connecting France, Connecting Europe
Launch of a new fibre field Schiltigheim, France
23 October 2012
In today's economy we need a lift. We need to boost our economy. We need to invest in tomorrow's opportunities.
And that means broadband.
Broadband boosts growth, jobs and competitiveness. Increasing penetration by 10 percentage points could add well over €100 billion to EU GDP each year.
And as time goes on, so grow the opportunities. New online services will appear, while existing ones will expand and improve.
One example. In the future, cloud computing could offer everybody a virtual locker for their favourite music, films or software. And offer every business low-cost, flexible IT services. Boosting our economy by hundreds of billions of euros a year.
Plus we could deliver more efficient, modernised public and private services, from e-Health to virtual universities to smart energy grids.
And these are just the innovations that we know about.
But all those opportunities, are only available to those with fast broadband. That's why we need every European digital.
Today, most people expect things like running water, electricity, a telephone connection. In the future, people will see broadband in the same way. As an essential utility, if not a human right. Just as taken for granted as fresh air – and, I hope, just as abundant.
But with all those new services coming online, today's networks will get congested and overloaded. We can't condemn our citizens to a world of blackouts and slow connections. That's why we need to invest in the next generation: superfast broadband.
Here's my plan for how we do that.
First, we should cut the cost of deploying new networks. A lot of that cost is civil engineering; often made more expensive by duplication of efforts or cumbersome permit procedures. Our forthcoming proposals will set out a way forward here: cutting costs by as much as 30%.
Second, we should promote private sector investment through a sound legal framework. This is what I announced on 12 July, when I proposed durable rules to last until 2020. To provide certainty, consistency and competition needed for investment to happen. And already, since July, several operators have announced fresh investment plans.
Third, the private sector can't do this all alone; in too many regions, the business case is still too weak. So it needs public support, too. In the least populated areas, we can provide that support through structural funds. And in the grey areas in between, like less populated suburbs, we have proposed investment through the Connecting Europe Facility.
This Facility matters: boosting confidence, cutting risk, and connecting tens of millions more households to superfast broadband. According to our own internal estimates, without this Facility, by 2020, 30 million people in France could still be left without fibre coverage. That's almost half of the population, cut off from superfast connections, shut off from new digital opportunities.
Whereas with that investment, a region like Alsace could see coverage for the great majority of citizens.
This is a real investment in our future. What's more, by using financial instruments, we would make every taxpayer's cent work around seven times harder, so every Member State would get more back than they pay in through the EU budget.
That's a significant advantage – but one you only get with EU-level action. So I'm glad so many out there – including Orange - support our proposal. I hope that national governments, too, can unlock this investment, as they discuss the future EU budget.
Today is a good day for the region of Alsace. Public and private sectors have found common ground to invest. Well done to all of you.
People in the area will feel the benefits, now and for generations to come. And pretty soon, you won't be able to remember your life without those superfast connections!
I want every European to enjoy the benefits you'll soon have here in Alsace. I want Europe, together, to invest in tomorrow's opportunities. I want us to become the connected, competitive continent.