The European Union’s fund for free wireless internet connection hotspots is most popular in Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Italy, Malta, Slovenia and Romania. The scheme, called WiFi4EU, has already attracted the interest of around 17,000 European municipalities that have pre-registered for a voucher, which can be used to pay internet companies to set up the wifi infrastructure. However, only around 2,500 municipalities are expected to benefit from the fund under the 2018 budget.
The first call of proposals will be launched on 15 May and will be handed out on a first-come, first-served basis to those municipalities that have pre-registered – which is possible until 1pm on 15 May – and then apply through the fund’s website. Ahead of that deadline, EUobserver and the European Data Journalism Network (EDJNet) teamed up to look at where the pre-registered European municipalities are from.
When looking at Europe’s different regions, and the share of municipalities that have pre-registered, a couple of EU countries stand out. In particular, southern European countries have high pre-participation rates.
Almost all municipalities in Malta registered, and 75.4 percent of towns in Sicily. Adriatic Croatia has a rate of 70.9 percent. Pre-registration shares are also high in western German states and Belgium. At the bottom end, the scheme has not proven very popular in most of the Czech Republic, southern Greece, and the United Kingdom. Except for the UK, lack of awareness of the fund could be as much of an explanation for that as already having sufficient public wifi available.
None of the municipalities in Northern Ireland have pre-registered, and very few in the rest of the UK, which will only be eligible after Brexit if specific arrangements were made. Only the Highlands and Scottish islands pop up, because 4.7 percent of municipalities there have pre-registered. Taking the United Kingdom as a whole, only 0.8 percent of municipalities have pre-registered.
Applicant municipalities for the WiFi4EU program
When looking at the share of municipalities in the EU’s 28 countries, Malta tops the list with 97.1 percent of municipalities pre-registered – followed by Bulgaria (86 percent), Croatia (67.6 percent), Slovenia (59.9 percent), Belgium (54 percent), Italy (45.5 percent), Romania (44.9 percent). In Denmark, only 1.3 percent of municipalities pre-registered.
Similarly small shares can be found in Greece (3.9 percent), France (5.9 percent), Czech Republic (6 percent), Portugal (8.6 percent), and Lithuania (9.5 percent).
Taking another point of view – in the same map above – one can see that the three biggest EU states of the remaining 27 have most of the EU’s pre-registered municipalities. Italy (21.9 percent), Germany (14.5 percent), and France (12.7 percent), take up almost half of all pre-registered municipalities. That can be explained by their sheer size and number of municipalities.
Because of the first-come, first-served basis, it could be that just a few member states take most of the available vouchers if they happen to be quick. However, under the first call each EU country will receive at least 15 vouchers.
If you want to find out if your municipality has pre-registered, you can follow this link (loading may take a while).
Update 18 May: This article is based on data from the European Commission’s WiFi4EU portal, downloaded on 15 May, after the final deadline of pre-registration.