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European Commission

Neelie Kroes

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

Every European digital on a connected continent

"Broadband for All" European Satellite Operators Association (ESOA) event /Brussels

17 October 2013

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"Every European digital". That's my motto, my vision, my bumper sticker. Every household, every business, every public service, and every classroom on our connected continent.

Because Europe needs the connectivity to compete in the digital age. But also: because we cannot leave any of our citizens out of the Internet opportunity; we cannot create a new digital divide.

In particular, we have a clear target that every European should have access to at least basic broadband by 2013. And already by the end of last year, we were pretty much there, with 96.1% of rural households, and 99.4% of all households, having that coverage from fixed and mobile.

That's pretty good going.

But those last few households will, by definition, always be the hardest to reach. Isolated rural or sparsely populated ones where fixed or mobile broadband rollout is more cumbersome and expensive.

No wonder traditional telecom operators are less interested in those rural areas; preferring, understandably, to concentrate on more densely-populated places.

And that is where satellites come in. Modern bi-directional broadband satellites can provide download speeds up to 20 Megabits per second. At ever lower consumer costs. And now they are available everywhere in the EU.

Already there is total capacity to supply around 1.7 million households with basic broadband. And that can only increase with new satellites going up.

The EU is technology neutral. But for those in the most isolated areas, unserved by other means, it's easy to see that satellite is a good option to get connected; and it's likely to remain so.

Raising awareness can help this technology reach out and serve more people. Something we've been aware of for some time in the Commission.

So I'm delighted that the European Satellite Operators Association has responded with this new initiative. A commitment so everyone in Europe can be aware of the possibilities which satellite offers. So that every citizen can find learn who offers satellite broadband where they live, what's available, and for how much.

The website at the centre of this campaign will be complemented by other measures to support satellite technology, and raise awareness.

And I am pleased we are working with the industry through our investment in research and innovation, with projects like SABER and BRESAT.

Today's launch is not just helpful for consumers; it is also a testament. Thanks to the extra coverage from satellite broadband, with representation in every EU country, we have achieved our 2013 target of broadband for all. That's great result for Europe.

And by the way I hope the industry will also help us in our ambitions to open up education. The goal is to have every classroom and every pupil digital by 2020, wherever they are. Satellite can also contribute to this achievement. Let's work together to ensure that.

I am proud of Europe's position in satellite communications. Eutelsat and Astra are world leaders.

That is an example for others to follow. And I wish we had such strong European champions in other digital areas.

Indeed, ensuring strong and healthy telecoms players that can transform and compete globally is one of the reasons why I'm trying to create a telecoms single market for Europe.

One where we bring down barriers that plague the telecoms sector, and help them face a digital future.

Measures like a single authorisation regime will ensure that the right to operate in one member state gives the right to operate in all.

That will be a boost for the whole telecoms sector. But especially for satellite, by its nature a cross-border technology. With a common framework and collaborative governance, there should be no need to have to deal with multiple separate bureaucracies. That's a philosophy that the satellite industry already benefits from for audiovisual content; that's what should apply for broadband too.

And of course the telecoms single market will continue to be a competitive one – so citizens continue to benefit from choice, quality and value, wherever they are.

And we will continue to push forward towards our 2020 targets. So that every European has coverage by 30 Megabit broadband, with half having 100 Megabit subscriptions.

And here public funding continues to play a role, especially in rural areas. With support for broadband through the Connecting Europe Facility, with ICT now a priority of EU structural funds, and the guidelines on state aid for broadband. Those are all significant steps forward which I hope member states make use of.

With those ingredients – and with many different ways to access the Internet – we can ensure no European is left behind. I thank you for your support in achieving that goal. And I hope when European leaders meet next week, they also look to the future, and see the benefits of a connected continent.


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