The European Union's Committee of the Regions has called on the European Commission (EC) to close the digital divide by ensuring that all citizens in the region have affordable broadband access.
The EC has outlined its desire to get everyone online with high-speed connections by 2013 as part of the Europe 2020 plan, and the Committee has backed the initiative in a report written by Belgian MEP Jean-François Istasse.
"Many Europeans do not have access to broadband services at a reasonable price and this stifles quality of life and the chance for economic recovery in these areas. The EC's Europe 2020 blueprint recognises this," he said.
However, the report goes on to say that the EC must not rely on markets alone to deliver high-speed internet in hard-to-reach rural communities, mountainous regions and islands.
The Committee has called on the EC to create policies that acknowledge market failure, and to set up public initiatives to help develop open networks in these areas.
The Committee also warned of the potential impact on town planning and the environment from widespread deployments of antennas and masts.
"The installation of antennas can be a very sensitive issue for local communities. We therefore need to listen at the local level and strike the right balance between rolling out new networks and protecting the interests of our citizens," said Istasse.
The issue of broadband rollouts for rural areas is a hot topic in the UK as the general election approaches, and both main parties are touting different solutions.
Labour has proposed a controversial Landline Duty to fund its commitment to getting everyone online with 2Mbit/s access by 2012.
The Conservatives, meanwhile, would deregulate the market to encourage private investors, and use a percentage of the BBC licence fee to offer an ambitious 100Mbit/s to all by 2017.
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