Households with broadband access, 2009


Observations for policy

Access to high capacity telecommunication networks is a key to enhanced competitiveness and economic growth. The provision of digital services and the capacity to operate successfully in a global business environment increasingly rely on fast and effective broadband connections. However, the capacity to exploit possibilities offered by broadband access depends also on the levels of computer and digital network proficiency,

Access to reliable transport and communication, including high speed Internet, is furthermore one of the indicators for the EU’s objective of territorial cohesion and explores the development potential of a region. Capital regions and regions in the Nordic countries, Western Germany and the Netherlands have the highest percentages of households with broadband access. The actual use of broadband Internet in more rural areas provides opportunities to decrease the traditional rural-urban disparities. Although the percentages of households with broadband access in rural areas are lower than in urban areas.

The ICT sector is a fast developing sector. ICT is estimated to have accounted for half of the productivity growth in the EU in the first decade of the present century. The disparities for next generation access, which entails Internet connections with higher capacities, will therefore again be larger than for broadband access. Countries as the Netherlands, Belgium and Malta have close to 100% coverage already, whereas in France, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Poland and Cyprus next generation access is below 40%.

Policy context

In relation to the Europe 2020 Strategy the Digital Agenda Europe defined three goals related to fast and ultra-fast Internet access for the year 2020. First, the entire EU population should be covered by broadband access (over 30Mbps). Second, at least half of the population should use Internet with a speed of at least 100Mbps or more. Third, investments in ICT research and development should be stimulated.

While the territorial coverage of broadband access in the EU is high, reaching 96% of all households, the uptake is, on the other hand, relatively low. On average, 70% of households have access to at least one fixed broadband network. The Territorial Agenda 2020 therefore promotes improving territorial connectivity for individuals, communities and enterprises. Fair and affordable accessibility to services of general interest, information, knowledge and mobility are essential for territorial cohesion. Broadband access delivers part of the needed infrastructure in this regard.

Map interpretation

The map shows the percentage of households with broadband access. Despite some differences between countries, most regional differences can be assigned to rural-urban disparities. Investments in Internet infrastructures are relatively cheaper in high-density areas. The relatively high percentages of households with broadband access in the Nordic countries reflect these countries’ pro-active public policies to invest in broadband access, as a measure to promote territorial cohesion.

Concepts and methods

Eurostat collects data for the percentage of households with broadband access per region. Broadband or high-speed Internet connections are defined as those Internet connections that have a capacity equal to or higher than 144 Kbits/s.