BRUSSELS (05/24/2000) - The European Commission's "Action Plan for eEurope" was approved today, setting the end of 2002 as the deadline for creating the foundation needed to bring Internet access to every European citizen, school, business and administration.
"We must now move fast to eliminate barriers to the uptake of the Internet in Europe," Information Society Commissioner Erkki Liikanen told a press conference.
The urgency reflects the European Union's belief that rapid access to the Internet and the spread of electronic commerce are essential for the competitiveness of the EU economy as a whole. The 30-page plan consists of a series of actions tied to a specific timetable up to the end of 2002. None of the proposals are surprises, with the plan essentially sticking to the 10 points outlined in the original "eEurope" initiative presented by the Commission in December 1999. The Action Plan is aimed at implementing those points.
This time around, however, the Commission has grouped the points under three main objectives: the introduction of a faster, cheaper Internet; investment in developing the skills people need to use the Internet, and stimulation of Internet use.
To achieve a cheaper and faster Internet, the Commission has called for Council approval of a new legislative framework for telecommunications in Europe before the end of 2001 and implementation of its recommendation on unbundling the local loop by the end of 2000. It also sets mid-2001 as the deadline for ensuring that all member states have allocated frequencies for multimedia wireless systems.
Under the same objective, the Commission sets the end of 2001 as the deadline for the Commission and the private sector to agree on a strategy for rapid deployment and use of "IPv6," referring to the Internet Protocol needed for the next generation Internet.