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Juncker Hooks Up With Village People

Unconnected countryside dwellers across Europe will be rejoicing today (although perhaps prematurely) after European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced extraordinary plans to bring free wireless Internet access to every village in the region by 2020.

The Luxembourgish politician announced the "free connectivity" plan in his annual "State of the Union" address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

"We propose today to equip every European village and every city with free wireless Internet access around the main centers of public life by 2020," he said.

Juncker must reckon the scheme will deliver a huge boost to Europe's digital economy: Maybe Slovak farmers will trade in their combines for computers, and German tradesmen swap kitchen fitting for coding.

But before anyone gets too carried away with this vision of digital nirvana -- where gigabytes are as free as the air we breathe -- they might consider the (im)practicalities of Juncker's plan.

Juncker's On a Promise
European villages like this one in Italy are all going to have free wireless Internet access by 2020, promises EC head honcho Jean-Claude Juncker.
European villages like this one in Italy are all going to have free wireless Internet access by 2020, promises EC head honcho Jean-Claude Juncker.

Juncker certainly doesn't appear to have given it much thought, judging by the lack of detail in his speech and the attendant press release.

Perhaps he's caught wind of Facebook's plans to bring free Internet connectivity to Africa using satellite technology, and thinks Europe might also benefit? If so, he may have missed the part where the rocket transporting the requisite satellite exploded on take-off -- possibly as a result of alien intervention. (See SpaceX Explosion Blows Hole in Facebook's Africa Plans.)

Conversations with a few service providers and regional authorities might disabuse Juncker of the notion that cost-effectively crossing the digital divide is as straightforward as powering up an iPhone.

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He's not entirely witless when it comes to wireless technology, though. He's heard of 5G, for one thing, and unlike Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan doesn't believe rural Europe can leapfrog 4G and go straight to the next-gen standard.

"The Commission is proposing to fully deploy 5G, the fifth generation of mobile communication systems, across the European Union by 2025," he said in his speech. "This has the potential to create a further two million jobs in the EU."

Obviously, an aide has informed him that 5G won't be part of the mainstream comms market until 2020, at the earliest.

After that, though, it seems Europeans will be able to look forward to a frenzy of 5G activity. There'll be no holding back, as service providers "fully deploy" the technology across the region.

It's enough to make your British correspondent wonder how any of his fellow citizens could have voted to leave the EU.

— Iain Morris, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, News Editor, Light Reading

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