Rural communities key to Europe’s superfast broadband target

Despite all households in the European Union now having access to basic broadband, significant challenges remain before the same can be said of high-speed services, according to UK research firm Point Topic – not least of which is the high cost of wiring up rural areas.

Piggybacking on the European Commission’s latest release of its Digital Agenda Scoreboard, which revealed a couple of days ago that just over half of Europeans currently have access to speeds above 30 Mbps, Point Topic estimates that only 12% of rural households are currently covered by Next-Generation Access technologies such as DOCSIS 3.0 cable, VDSL and fibre-to-the-premises.

However, while the EC currently predicts that wiring up the whole continent to superfast broadband will cost in the region of €180-240bn, Point Topic believes it could be done for as (relatively) little as €82bn – with two-thirds of that figure being needed for rural areas.

Of Europe’s big four economies, France – as the most rural – has the biggest investment need at €17.5bn. The UK on the other hand, although similar in population, needs only €7.5bn, according to the research firm.

The €52 billion estimate also assumes that superfast investment will be capped at an average of €2,000 per household. “Most of that amount will have to be funded by the taxpayer in one way or another,” says Point Topic’s Tim Johnson “and we think that’s about as much as they will stand for. But we think that a large proportion of rural Europe will get wired up on that basis.”

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