Report: Europe lagging on broadband use

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BRUSSELS -- Europe is still lagging on broadband use, EU Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding said Wednesday as she unveiled figures revealing that only eight of the EU's 27 member states were ahead of the U.S. in broadband use.

The rollout of new broadband-linked services such as mobile broadcasting and online films was being held back by former state-owned telecoms monopolies who have no competitors and no incentives to offer more to their customers, Reding said. "Incumbent operators hold more than 46% of broadband lines and in seven member states control more than 60% of broadband connections," she said.

Reding said the figures -- in the EU's annual report on the state of telecoms -- showed a massive overhaul of telecoms rules was needed. Her own reform plans, unveiled last November, aim to spur competition between operators and drive down the costs that have so far hampered new broadcasting opportunities.

Reding set an average EU broadband penetration target of 30% by 2010, up from the 20% figure reached by the end of 2007, and 16.2% the year before. By contrast, the U.S. has a broadband penetration average of 22.1%

The report's figures showed Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden have broadband penetration rates of over 30%. Some 19 million broadband lines were added in the EU in 2007, the equivalent of more than 50,000 households every day. Overall, the EU's 300 billon euro ($470 billion) telecoms market -- worth 2% of EU GDP -- grew 1.9% last year.
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