Broadband big in EU, but gaps remain

Report says networks cover 90% of population

BRUSSELS -- The European Union has almost 100 million broadband lines, an annual growth rate of 20% and 52,000 new lines connected daily, according to a European Commission report published Thursday.

The report said that broadband networks cover 90% of the EU population on average, and that the Internet is used by 49% of EU households, with 36% using broadband.

However, there are big broadband gaps across the EU. While 100% of the population is covered in Denmark, Luxembourg and Belgium, more than 60% in Romania are not.

The average rate for rural broadband coverage is just 70%. Even in strong economies such as Italy and Germany, 18% and 12% of the rural population are not covered, respectively.

The report said that the major driver for broadband development is open-market competition between parallel infrastructures such as telecoms and cable networks.

Other factors, such as access to PCs and cultural and linguistic features, also clearly play a considerable role in take-up of these services, it said. And money helps, of course. Over the 2007-13 period, $3.4 billion from the EU budget will be spent on broadband networks, in addition to national funds and private investment.