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European Commission

Neelie Kroes

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

Speech: Building Smarter Cities with Broadband

Dialogue with Mayors of EU Capital Cities on Smart and Sustainable Growth in Cities /Brussels

28 February 2013

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.

Today's societies face many challenges. And I know well from my own experience that in such situations, you – mayors - are the first called on to respond.

To address those many challenges facing our cities there is one key response: digital. Whether it's transport, energy or waste management, we need to get smarter.

"Smart cities" are those that use ICT's potential to offer better, more efficient services for their citizens. This improves the quality of life and boosts sustainable growth.

Smarter, greener cities are not just nicer to live in; they also make economic sense, for instance through lower energy bills. There are many examples around Europe where renewable energy has started replacing traditional, bulk sources; helping the city save money.

Green smart city solutions are also an international growth market. South Korea and China are investing significantly in "smartening up" their cities, for example. Where will they buy those solutions from? Will Europe lead the way?

Last summer we proposed a new European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities. We want this Partnership to speed up full-scale deployment here in Europe - and maximise our share of foreign markets.

And we are targeting those smart city solutions that cross sectoral boundaries: that combine the power of ICT with other sectors: energy, transport and mobility.

To deliver smart cities, though, you need one key ingredient: broadband. Broadband that is fast, reliable, and available everywhere. Broadband networks that support data-intensive applications, but also technology able to gather and process those data.

Your role as mayors is crucial: it is from the local level that those networks are deployed. Historically you may have focused on bricks and tarmac to connect and improve your communities: now it's about broadband, too.

First, you can do a lot through smart civil engineering, which can account for as much as 80% of deployment costs. Getting smarter here means, for instance, laying a fibre cable when you're also repairing a water pipe – rather than duplicated and costly repeat digging.

I know there are many successful local initiatives to cut the cost of broadband deployment. Here today I know Amsterdam, Stockholm and Vienna are represented, to name just three. We should scale up and disseminate these local best practices across the EU.

So I soon intend to propose a legislative measure to bring down the cost of broadband deployment and, at the same time, to reduce the disruption and damage from constructing new networks. That will help broadband, help the environment, and help your citizens' quality of life.

Secondly we also need fresh investment in broadband networks. I know that you have to manage very tight budgets and cater for many different needs.

But even in this difficult context it is important to think ahead and invest, to give modern smart cities the skeleton they need: broadband infrastructure. That's an investment that will pay off.

Under the next EU budget framework, we will provide, notably through EU Structural Funds, new chances for regional and local authorities to sustainably develop our urban areas: including by investing in smart city capacity.

In practice, before the end of the year Member States will discuss with the European Commission their partnership contracts and operational programmes; setting their priorities and plans for the use of these funds.

I hope the right public authorities - regional, local, urban and other kinds - will be involved in preparing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating those contracts and programmes. And that you will keep in mind the benefits and possibilities of smart cities when you do so.

Ladies and gentlemen, these days, managing your cities efficiently and sustainably depends on digital technologies. I fully support this vision for smart cities, and I hope, as elected local leaders, you can share it. Because it is only with your involvement and enthusiasm that this vision can become reality.

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