Europe plans to add thousands of free Wi-Fi hot spots to public spaces across all EU members countries over the next few years.
The hot spots will be added as part of a plan called WiFi4EU, which was agreed to on Monday by the European Parliament, Council, and Commission. The parties agreed to add between 6,000 and 8,000 Wi-Fi hot spots by 2020.
The goal, says Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who introduced the WiFi4EU plan last year, is to have free Wi-Fi in “every European village and every city ... around the main centers of public life.”
Areas with hot spots could include public squares, parks, and hospitals. The EU bodies will set aside €120 million (about $135 million USD) to fund the launch of these hot spots. The money will pay for the equipment needed to set up and run the hot spots, but local municipalities will be required to pay ongoing internet access costs.
While the specifics haven’t been finalized yet, the plan is to allow local authorities to apply for funding to add Wi-Fi to any applicable public space that doesn’t already have service.
WiFi4EU is part of the EU’s “Digital Single Market” initiative, which is meant to strengthen and streamline technology and regulations of it across the continent. Andrus Ansip, who’s in charge of the initiative, said in a statement that the Wi-Fi plan “is a welcome first step, but much more needs to be done to achieve high-speed connectivity across the whole EU territory.”
Eurostat says that 85 percent of EU households had broadband internet access in 2016. That’s a high figure, but it means there’s still a gap to bridge.