Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has brought proposals to the committee stage of the European Parliament that call for the creation of Wifi hubs in towns and villages across Europe.
The Ireland South MEP, who is the lead negotiator on the WiFi4EU project, said the initiative would help bring connectivity and investment to rural areas.
“This is an important project and I would urge all communities without this type of infrastructure to keep an eye on this scheme and avail of it when it is rolled out, hopefully early this summer,” she said.
“It is a very simple but effective idea. It requires a relatively small investment of some €120m that, if used wisely, will have huge returns for the communities it benefits.
“The basic premise is that we equip as many towns and villages as possible with free wireless internet access, centred around the main centres of public life in that area, by 2020.
“It would be focused on places like parks and squares, libraries, health centres, museums or wherever people happen to congregate in a given area.
“While the scheme will be dispersed in as geographically balanced a manner as possible, I feel it is important that special consideration is given to rural and peripheral areas, particularly those suffering from a lack of internet access. It may seem ridiculous that such places exist in 2017 but I can think of several in my own constituency, indeed in my own county, alone.
“This scheme will bear huge benefits for peripheral communities, giving disadvantaged individuals and areas access to the internet, giving local social enterprises access to a global market, generating employment in communities that people, particularly young people are being forced to leave; the benefits are endless.
“It will be used to promote things like health and e-tourism; the scheme is only as limited as the imagination of the communities it will benefit.
“€20m is going to be made available for the scheme before the end of 2017 and one of the most important aspects is its accessibility. We will ensure that applying to the scheme is open, easy and free of needless bureaucracy. A simple online application system will be set up and local authorities will be actively encouraged to take part.
“Proposals like this are the type that were originally envisaged for the EU. A social partnership of countries working together to improve the lives of everyone from Bucharest to Ballyferriter.”