The European Commission kicked off the Christmas holidays with some tidings of good cheer: It plans to steer more than €1 billion (US$1.13 billion) from its coffers into efforts to boost connectivity throughout the European Union.
The funding falls under the next stage of the so-called Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), which is a key EU funding instrument.
CEF Digital also plans to support the deployment or upgrade of backbone networks. Here, it mentioned cloud federations (Gaia-X, maybe?), quantum communication infrastructures and submarine cables.
A third focus area is to support connectivity networks for transport and energy. Those wishing to get involved will be able to make their applications from January 2022.
The current CEF Digital work program covers the period from 2021 to 2023. The total planned budget is up to €2 billion ($2.26 billion) until 2027, of which €1.7 billion ($1.9 billion) is managed by the European Health and Digital Executive Agency (HaDEA).
The entire CEF program is worth €33.7 billion ($38.2 billion) from 2021 to 2027 and supports investment in trans-European digital, transport and energy networks.
The Commission noted that the first generation of CEF, which ran from 2014-2020, was responsible for the free WiFi program called WiFi4EU. It also supported the deployment of very-high capacity networks in rural and semi-rural areas across Europe via the Connecting Europe Broadband Fund (CEBF).
Mind the gap
The primary role of CEF Digital is to bridge the gap between private and public funding in order to boost network connectivity across the EU. It complements other funding instruments, including the Recovery and Resilience Facility and InvestEU.
According to the Commission, CEF Digital "will help support an unprecedented amount of investments devoted to safe, secure, and sustainable high-performance infrastructure. In particular, Gigabit and 5G networks across the EU."
Furthermore, CEF Digital "will contribute to the increased capacity and resilience of digital backbone infrastructures in all EU territories, in particular the outermost regions. This is crucial for Europe's ambition to continue being digitally sovereign and independent in the years to come."
CEF is broadly overseen by the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA), which is the successor organization of the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (INEA) with effect from April 1, 2021.
The Commission said CINEA "plays a key role in supporting the EU Green Deal through the efficient and effective implementation of its delegated programs."
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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading