EU calls for deeper broadband penetration

Brief: Governments should help telcos push broadband connections into rural areas, according to the European Commission

The European Union is calling for broadband for all citizens, with government money the way to make it happen.

According to the European Commission, universal availability of broadband "is crucial for fostering growth and jobs in Europe", particularly in less-developed areas.

Now, the EC said, investments and telecoms legislation in member states must be directed to make this happen.

The Commission is encouraging governments to share broadband best practice and set targets for the rollout of rural broadband services, currently hampered by suppliers' fears over potentially low take-up.

Competition commissioner Neelie Kroes said a balance must be struck between state intervention and interference in the market.

She said in a statement: "Deployment of broadband may be hampered by market failures in rural and remote areas. In such cases, well-targeted state aid may therefore be appropriate. But we have to make sure that state aid does not crowd out private initiative, nor distort competition to an extent contrary to the common interest."

Broadband penetration across the continent stands at some 13 percent of the population. The UK is one of the most avid broadband users, with more than seven million DSL lines alone.