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European Union

EU lawmakers back free Wi-Fi scheme

In its quest to provide internet access to every European citizen, the EU Parliament has backed a plan to finance thousands of free Wi-Fi hotspots. EU lawmakers said up to 8,000 access points will be created by 2020.

The European Parliament on Tuesday voted in favor of the "WiFi4EU" scheme, which will finance the creation of up to 8,000 free WiFi hot spots across Europe by 2020.

The European Parliament said the Wi-Fi hot spots will be located at centers of public life and public sector bodies, including parks, libraries and hospitals.

Financing amounting to 120 million euros ($144 million) will be provided to public bodies on a "first come, first served" basis, and will be distributed in a "geographically balanced manner" with a focus on places with limited connectivity, according to the EU's legislative body.

'Strong political vision'

Carlos Zorrinho, a Portuguese member of European Parliament and chief rapporteur of the resolution, said the resolution marked a landmark moment in Brussels' quest to better connect citizens across the bloc.

Read more: Check-up for the internet

"The WiFi4EU Initiative was a strong political vision that will soon become a concrete reality throughout the EU, assuring that, regardless of where they live or how much they earn, every European benefits from high quality Wi-Fi connectivity," said Zorrinho.

"This will improve the European Gigabit Society, rendering it economically competitive and socially inclusive," which forms part of the EU's bloc-wide communications overhaul.

The scheme will help establish WiFi access points in places where there is limited connectivity

The scheme will help establish WiFi access points in places where there is limited connectivity

Bloc-wide strategy

In a bid to curb concerns of data privacy, Mariya Gabriel, the European Commissioner in charge of digital economy and society, said any personal data collected during use may not be used for commercial purposes and no private advertising may be offered through the access points.

Read more: German media groups to form data alliance

The WiFi4EU scheme is one facet of the EU's bid to modernize communication and access across the bloc. The Wi-Fi hotspots financed through the scheme are expected to encourage local authorities to develop and promote their own digital services, including e-government and e-health.

In order to be eligible for the financing scheme, which will pay for equipment and installation costs, the public sector body must pay for the internet subscription and maintenance of the equipment for three years.

ls/kms (AFP, dpa)

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