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Digital commissioner questions European broadband targets

Wednesday, April 22nd 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Europe’s digital commissioner has questioned the European Commission’s current broadband targets.

Günther Oettinger said the targets set by the Digital Agenda for Europe in 2010 – universal 30Mbps coverage by 2020 and 50% coverage of 100Mbps broadband – were “very ambitious”.

In a blog post for the European Commission, Mr Oettinger said he was "glad that important progress has been made in terms of broadband rollout and take-up.

“But, five years later, Europe's connectivity needs are continuously increasing,” he said.

Mr Oettinger, who replaced Neelie Kroes as digital commissioner last year, said worldwide consumer internet traffic increased by 26% in 2013.

“Until now, this has largely been driven by video-based usage,” he said. “The number of hours people are watching YouTube per month is up 50% year over year and 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

“It is estimated that internet video traffic will reach the equivalent of 16bn DVDs per month, or 22m DVDs per hour by 2018.”

He said that in the future, an abundance of cheaper and smarter mobile devices will only accelerate the upward trend.

'Digital world'

“Against this background, I can only wonder which broadband targets we will need beyond 2020,” said Mr Oettinger.

“I am wondering whether in the future an average SME with 30 employees can fully benefit from all the opportunities of a Digital Single Market with only a 30Mbps internet connexion (sic).

“I am wondering whether a school – where [at] least 100 pupils learn online, at the same time, every day – can adequately prepare students for a connected digital world, if it is limited to a ‘superfast’ 100Mbps connexion (sic).

“I am wondering why some communities, on their own initiative, are rolling out rural networks that deliver gigabit connectivity, when the EU's existing targets are more than 30 times less ambitious.”

Turning his thoughts to mobile connectivity, Mr Oettinger said he wondered if there was too much focus on fixed locations.

“I could find many more questions, but only one could sum up my concern: what capacity do our fixed and mobile digital networks need to fit our current and future connectivity needs beyond 2020?”

He added that Europe needs a “cross-sector, cross-generational debate on future-oriented connectivity” and that he would be consulting widely in the coming months on the topic.

In October, Mr Oettinger’s predecessor Neelie Kroes told Cable.co.uk Europe was lagging behind the rest of the world because of a divide between digital and analogue thinkers.

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