PRESS RELEASE BY THE MINISTRY FOR COMPETITIVENESS AND DIGITAL, MARITIME AND SERVICES ECONOMY: “EU to launch free ‘WiFi4EU’ hotspots – deal with EP. This will see progress in digital divide” – Minister Emmanuel Mallia

The Maltese Presidency reached an informal agreement with the European Parliament on the EU-sponsored scheme ‘WiFi4EU’ in order to promote free internet in town halls, hospitals, parks, and other public spaces. An easily recognisable and multilingual ‘WiFi4EU’ portal will provide users with a free and secure high-speed internet connection. The local municipality or any public body offering this connection can use the portal to provide easy access to their digital services.

‘WiFi4EU’ will make fast internet available to many citizens who otherwise might not have the chance to experience high-quality connectivity, explained Minister Emmanuel Mallia, adding that it will encourage the use of digital services and reduces the digital divide, including in places with limited internet access.

This agreement defines what the scheme will look like, however its budget will be finalised following the ongoing mid-term review of the European Union’s multiannual financial framework. Under this scheme, municipalities, libraries, hospitals, and other public bodies are able to apply for the funding with regard to the installation of local wireless access points, using simple administrative procedures. The public body is responsible for maintaining the connection for at least three years, while simple funding tools such as vouchers will be provided to cover up to 100% of the eligible costs.

The funding will be allocated in a geographically balanced manner across EU countries, and in principle on a first-come, first-served basis, whilst some prioritisation for applicants from countries with low participation rates will be possible. To ensure that financial assistance does not distort competition or deters private investment, only projects which do not duplicate existing private or public internet connections are eligible.

The objective is to have the scheme’s budget agreed, and technical work finalised in time, in order to have the scheme in place by the end of 2017. The Presidency will submit the outcome of the talks for approval by the member states in the coming weeks, so that the project could kick off as planned.

Source: Government of Malta