HN: Parties pledging improved internet services but delays could prove costly
Ahead of October’s general elections, Czech political parties are talking up faster internet services “for every village”, Hospodářské noviny reported on Thursday. However, critics say inaction may cost the country some EU funding earmarked for internet development.
In an as yet unpublished book that is set to be part of ANO’s election campaign, party boss Andrej Babiš promises to introduce high-speed internet networks that will be free of charge and available to all.
“They will also be in small municipalities of fewer than 2,000 inhabitants, in buses and on trains,” Hospodářské noviny quoted the publication as saying.
The Christian Democrats also refer to internet services in their freshly approved electoral programme. The party say that “internet in every village” can improve communities’ earning power and help stem the depopulation of the countryside.
The third partner in the current government are also in on the act, with the Social Democrats’ digitisation spokesperson Marek Ondroušek telling Hospodářské noviny the party was taking action to ensure high-speed internet spreads as far as possible.
Opposition parties are combining their own promises in this regard with criticism of the incumbent parties’ performance to date. Civic Democrats deputy chairman Martin Kupka said the government had fallen down on high-speed internet, arguing that other countries had achieved more in this regard.
Hospodářské noviny says a great amount would need to be done for the parties’ pledges to become reality. Key is the creation of a fast internet “highway” along which data can actually reach every Czech home.
Experts say that at present up to 84 percent of the population in the Czech Republic have connections slower than 10 Mb/s. That is some way short of the 30 Mb/s needed to qualify as high-speed internet.
Regardless of the politicians’ promises, rolling out an internet “highway” would be no easy matter.
The European Union has earmarked CZK 14 billion for internet development in the Czech Republic. However, the country’s political parties have long been divided on how best to invest those funds.
After a hold-up of nearly three years, the Ministry of Industry finally released the first CZK 1 billion of EU funding at the end of March. It is intended for companies building internet networks.
However, the money is only available until 2023 and critics say the Czech Republic may not have managed to make use of the entire amount by that date due to delayed action. For their part, politicians say the lost ground can be made up after the elections.
The EU envisages all Czechs having access to a 30 Mb/s internet connection and more than half of households having 100 Mb/s connections by the year 2020, Hospodářské noviny reported.