EU approves €120 million plan to roll out free Wi-Fi

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The European Parliament has voted through legislation that will see free Wi-Fi being rolled out to local communities across the EU.

The WiFi4EU initiative, worth €120 million, will provide high-speed internet access to between 6,000 and 8,000 local communities by 2020.

The funding will cover equipment and installation costs for internet access points. The local authority will pay for the subscription and maintenance of the access point, as well as set up the network.

It will be administered through a voucher scheme, where municipalities will be able to apply on a first-come first-served basis for funding. Every member state of the EU will receive vouchers.

The European Commission expects to award the first 1,000 vouchers by early 2018.

Users will be able to access all hotspots across the continent after a single registration. The roll-out is intended to target areas where comparable public hotspots are not available.

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, said: “WiFi4EU initiative will give to all European citizens from around the continent the opportunity to exchange ideas, dream and build their common future together.”

The project was first announced in the 2016 State of the Union address by European Commissioner Jean-Claude Juncker.

The pledge came alongside the unveiling of a 5G Action Plan, which will work to address availability of spectrum and provide funding to bring 5G to one city in each EU country by 2020.

In April, the EU pledged more than €50 billion to speed up the development of "priority" standards for 5G and cybersecurity, as well as to accelerate the digitisation of the continent.

In March, it agreed to coordinate the use of the ultra-high frequency (470-790MHz) spectrum band for wireless communications as it looks towards 5G deployment.