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Broadband: EC Action

Volume 458: debated on Thursday 29 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps the EU is taking (a) to advance broadband coverage in member states and (b) to promote the take up of mobile phone technology. (121066)

With our strong support the EU is working hard to create a more dynamic and internationally competitive single market for broadband and mobile services accessible to all across Europe. Its current work is largely through the i2010 programme for the information society which was developed and agreed during the UK's presidency, came into effect on 1 January 2006 and lasts until 2010 with a mid-term review in 2008. The i2010 programme includes measures to improve the regulatory framework for electronic communications services like broadband and mobile as well as measures to promote innovation and inclusion including take-up in the less developed regions of Europe. On broadband coverage the Commission is working with a wide range of regional and other interests on the proposals in its Communication last year, "Bridging the Broadband Gap", and has been working with member states and regional authorities to enable public funding of broadband in rural and other areas in accordance with state aid rules. On mobile the EU is also taking action to reduce charges for roaming between national mobile networks.

The proportion of mobile phone subscriptions relative to population in the EU is 93 per cent. one of the highest in the world. In several member states, including the UK, there are more mobile phones than people. A comparable figure for broadband is not available for the whole of the EU. In the 15 older member states it averaged 16 per cent. last year compared with 19 per cent. in Japan, 19.2 per cent. in the USA and 19.4 per cent. in the UK.