Only 40% of rural households have next generation access compared to 76% of total EU households. Therefore in the margins of the Broadband Days, the Commission together with the Member States launched Broadband Competence Offices (BCOs) and a toolkit for rural broadband. This toolkit consists of a 5 point action plan with concrete deadlines to bring more broadband in rural areas of the EU. Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, Commissioner for Regional Policy, Corina Crețu and Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Mariya Gabriel, said in a joint statement after the launch event: "All EU citizens should be able to benefit from high-speed broadband connections. This is not the case today, especially in rural areas, which are less attractive to investors. This is why the Commission pays particular attention to good connectivity and supports the roll-out of broadband connections to 18 million rural citizens until 2020. The Broadband Competence Offices are an important step forward to bridge financing with potential investors, authorities and citizens. They must work on concrete issues and help on the ground with professional adapted advice to boost broadband investment. We also launched a toolkit on how best to accelerate this process and facilitate investments in rural areas. This toolkit will be finalised by mid next year. If we want to keep our rural communities strong and sustainable, while generating the additional benefit of reducing the burden on our cities, we need to do more, and we need to do it faster."
Toolkit for rural broadband
Action 1: Setting up the Broadband Competence Offices. The broadband competencies offices will help improving broadband connectivity in rural areas. They will provide guidance to public administrations, telecom operators, and all other public and private stakeholders interested in rolling out broadband infrastructure and services. Their aim is to gather all information related to broadband, such as funding, technology or regulatory issues, in one single point of contact within the EU countries. Launched on 20 November 2017.
Action 2: deployment of "Broadband missions" to member states and regions with low levels of rural broadband coverage. These missions will comprise experts from across the Commission, who can provide technical assistance to unlock the administrative and financial bottlenecks to broadband rollout. This action could be implemented by June 2018.
Action 3: design a "common methodology" for planning, reporting, monitoring of broadband investments. This should be a useful indicator and resource for regions that wish to increase rural broadband coverage. This action could be implemented by April 2018.
Action 4: introduction of a "rural proof test" which will prioritise rural broadband in the reprogramming of any structural and investment funds. The checklist could be ready by April 2018.
Action 5: update the Commission's guide to high-speed broadband investment to help local communities to launch successful projects, by March 2018.
Yesterday evening the three commissioners awarded the five best European broadband projects. This year's winners come from Finland, Greece, Italy, UK and Sweden. More information on the winning projects can be found here.