BRUSSELS, BELGIUM: The SABER Project called upon the members of the EU and their regional governments to implement co-ordinated Regional Voucher Schemes to encourage awareness and take-up of satellite broadband solutions to cut the Digital Divide across Europe's most rural regions.
According to June 2014 Digital Agenda Scoreboard up to 6 million EU houses are still without access to fixed broadband services, despite satellite broadband availability in all EU countries. Voucher Schemes are administered by regional authorities and use publicly available funds to underwrite the hardware and/or installation costs of broadband solutions.
The rallying call to action was made at the final conference of the two-year SABER Project, an EU-funded Thematic Network. At the Brussels conference titled "Broadband for European Regions, from availability to penetration: the satellite contribution", SABER brought together representatives from 21 European regional authorities, satellite experts and key influencers to examine how to accelerate broadband adoption in rural areas.
With official patronage from the Italian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, high level speakers attending the event included Mercedes Bresso, MEP and former President of Region Piedmont and former President of the Committee of Regions; Michel Lebrun, current President of the Committee of Regions; Michel de Rosen, Eutelsat Chairman and CEO and Chairman of the European Satellite Operators Association (ESOA); Eric Béranger, Head of Space Systems Programs / Airbus Defence and Space (formerly Astrium) and Gerson Souto, Chief Development Officer, SES.
"Satellite broadband is a practical and viable solution today. However there are still two major barriers in the EU to the faster adoption of this technology. The first is the inadequacy of the European Union policy to drive awareness, acceptance and adoption of satellite technology, which was successfully achieved in North America and Australia. The second is the fragmented management of public funds to address the issue between the European Commission, the Member-States and the regions," said Michel de Rosen, chairman of ESOA, speaking on behalf of satellite operators.