Cyprus should have free access to EU-funded WiFi islandwide, MEP Lefteris Christodoulou said on Friday.
This would make the EU a pioneer, sending out a strong signal about its leading role in the digital economy and technology, as it is something that no other major economic power has done, he suggested.
“Until this ambitious goal has been reached, I have asked the EU to go ahead with a lot more municipalities and communities in Cyprus because Cyprus is a distant island with a lot of peculiarities which can be the EU’s digital gateway,” he said.
He said he welcomed that after much persuasion the EU had implemented a free Internet policy at central areas of municipalities and communities in EU member states.
“The initial funding of €120 million is a good start, but the EU must continue to lead the way in the field of free and equitable access for all to the internet.”
Free internet could be implemented in small island countries like Cyprus and Malta, he added.
The EU has an obligation to ensure access for all its members, Christodoulou believes.
Various selection criteria mean that so far just 15 municipalities and communities in Cyprus are part of the programme.
In March 2018 the European Commission launched its WiFi4EU web portal to which municipalities all over Europe were invited to register for the chance to benefit from EU financing to build free public wireless internet hotspots.
The WiFi4EU programme offers vouchers worth €15,000 for municipalities to set up Wi-Fi hotspots in public spaces, including libraries, museums, public parks and squares.
Some €120 million is available from the EU budget until 2020 to fund equipment for public free WiFi services in up to 8,000 municipalities in all member states as well as Norway and Iceland. Each participating country received at least 15 vouchers.
At the time, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said the WiFi4EU initiative aims at connecting “every European village and every city with free wireless internet access around the main centres of public life by 2020”.