Neelie Kroes_Connecting Europe: Fast Broadband for All


I want to talk to you today about broadband.

But first: I want to tell you another story, about another kind of technology.

When I was young, I remember when my parents got their first telephone. We were more or less the first on our street.

It was amazing. Partly it was the exciting novelty of having a new gadget. But that wore off.

What didn’t wear off was the amazing new things we could suddenly do with this new device.

Suddenly, we could get in touch with people around the world, friends and family, new contacts for the family business. Easily, instantly, inter-actively. We were suddenly part of a wider community, we could reach out to the whole world.

Today, a phone is nothing remarkable. In Europe, pretty much every European household, 98%, has one. Particularly mobiles. And one in three of us has a phone that can access the internet. Those phones open up so many essential opportunities, so many new connections, that few of us could imagine living without them.

That’s how technology goes from being a desirable novelty; to completely commonplace; to something so essential it’s almost a human right.

From being a futuristic fantasy, to the backbone of our economy.

That’s how new technologies can transform our world.

And the next of those technologies is broadband internet.

We’re at a crossroads for broadband. Where we end up depends on some tough political and investment decisions. Take the right turn, and we will see the benefits for many decades to come. Take the wrong one, and future generations will curse our missed opportunity.

The last few years we have seen Europe slipping behind in productivity growth.

We need to catch up. But how?

Well, in recent years, much of that productivity growth has come from the ICT sector and investments. Around half. And no wonder: ICT is the most powerful, productive investment there is.

Particularly investing in broadband. The wider social and economic benefits are huge. It means more growth, more jobs and a more competitive economy.

The new ideas we’ve had recently, from social networks to video-streaming to crowd-sourced knowledge, they’re amazing. 10 or 20 years ago they were unheard of: now they’re part of the everyday furniture. And all enabled by the internet.

It’s easy to take that internet for granted. Just as we take drinking water or electricity for granted.

And it’s easy to think that innovation will carry on growing exponentially, automatically, indefinitely.

Will it? Well, I hope so.

But it needs political attention, and investment. In networks, in frameworks, and in services. Here to read more.

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