Broadband Access in Europe Tops 72 Percent

High-speed Internet use, ideal for VOD and video streaming, is near ubiquitous across Europe.

COLOGNE, Germany - High-speed Internet access, a precondition for many digital film and entertainment offerings, is near ubiquitous in Europe, according to statistics released Tuesday by the European Union's statistical office, Eurostat.

The figures show more than three quarters of households across the 27 countries of the European Union had Internet access in 2012, compared to just under half in 2006. The growth in broadband access has been even more dramatic, with fully 72 percent of Europeans hooking up to the Net via high-speed connections, against just 30 percent with broadband access six years ago.

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The highest levels of broadband access were seen in the EU's richer, northern states, with countries such as Germany (82 percent), Denmark (85 percent), Sweden (87 percent), the Netherlands (83 percent) and the U.K. (80 percent) showing greatest penetration. But even in the poorer South, in countries hard hit by the economic crisis such as Italy and Greece, more than half of all households had a broadband connection.

Eurostat also broke down figures on online activity in EU member states, revealing that use of social media was highest in Portugal, where fully 75 percent of Internet users post messages to services such as Twitter and Facebook, and lowest in the Czech Republic, France and Germany where, respectively, only 35 percent, 40 percent and 42 percent of users do.

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Interestingly, the tiny, wealthy countries of the Baltic - Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - are European leaders when it comes to reading online newspapers and news sites - around 90 percent of the Internet users do so in all three countries - while in France, only 38 percent of users say they read news online.

The EU released the online stats ahead of a speech on Europe's digital policy by Neelie Kroes, the VP of the European Commission. Among the topics she is expected to discuss are plans to further broadband growth and possible changes to EU copyright law.