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Fostering investment in the broadband infrastructure of South Eastern Europe
[2020-05-07]
 
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Our initial project has been the creation and operation of the Hungarian Broadband Search Engine from 2007. A detailed description from an EU website:

The international concept which is operated by an independent foundation and called HBSE (Hungarian Broadband Search Engine), has been set up in Hungary to provide updated information on broadband offers and related conditions nationwide. We have been involved in the INTERREG B3 project (B3 Regions) and we are developing our Hungarian broadband search engine towards the EU market in order to strengthen eInclusion. We have participated in establishing the European Broadband website, which will become the most important platform for managing and coordinating governmental, non-governmental and profit organisations who are strengthening knowledge-based society based on broadband internet accessibility.

Policy Context until 2010 and beyond

The political goal of the European Union is to become the world's most competitive and dynamic economy by 2010, and the widespread availability of information society technologies is a major enabler on this way according to the Lisbon strategy. In most of the Member States these objectives became part of the Government Programme in order to highlight the importance of info-communication. Since the Lisbon Council settled the goals for building the European Information Society, a plurality of studies and projects have been carried out, reflecting different administrative, market and socio-economical conditions. Based on the broadband survey of Information Society and Media Directorate General of the European Commission (DG INFSO) in 2007 80,6 million fixed broadband subscribers were registered in the 27 European countries surveyed at the end of 2006, a 33%-increase over one year. This represents a 17,2% penetration rate (17,2 subscribers per 100 inhabitants) in average and 18,9% for western countries only (EU-15 + Norway and Iceland). With 65,7 million subscribers, DSL accounts for 81,5% of total fixed broadband connections at the end of 2006 while cable modem totals 15,7% of the subscriber base. The remaining 2,8% are mainly connected through fixed wireless access or FTTx technologies. One of the reason why DSL is dominating is that the POTS network on which DSL technologies operate is widely available. Average DSL coverage reached 89,3% at the end of 2006, 2 points higher than at the end of 2005. At national levels, DSL coverage is now over 80% in 22 countries. However, those national figures reveal big discrepancies between urban/suburban and rural areas. On average, DSL coverage in rural areas was only 71,7% at the end of 2006, which is 18 points below total coverage and 23 points lower than in urban areas.

Description of target users and groups

Our initial target group were all the internet users who were interested in Hungarian broadband services. The official penetration of households is 32%, while the coverage exceeds 94%. It means that approximately 4 millions inhabitants are lacking of broadband services and digital literacy. The needs of the target group were mainly basic level knowledge of computer and internet usage, because the level of digital illiteracy is just below 60% in Hungary. Our future intention is to extend our Broadband Search Engine to all the EU Member States.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

The HBSE is an independent and neutral portal with respect to internet and similar service providers. Upon creation, it offered an important service as the only independent broadband search engine available in Hungary. Creation of the engine, and the portal to support it was backed by the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication, and the National Communications Authority. The Broadband Foundation operates and develops the search engine and the database. Customers, internet service providers (ISPs) and public authorities benefit from HBSE, getting more and valid information which results in more effective competition, lower prices, increased choice and a greater number of access points. The site also presents useful information for ISPs and other competitors. In longer term, HBSE might support efficient allocation of EU structural and cohesion funds. HBSE handles more than 1 million addresses and the same amount of broadband access points.

Technology solution

The Foundation has unique technology and experiences to support and strengthen broadband gap between the countryside and more developed regions in Hungary and as well as in other EU Member States. What is broadband? Broadband refers to telecommunication in which a wide band of frequencies is available to transmit information. Because a wide band of frequencies is available, information can be multiplexed and sent on many different frequencies or channels within the band concurrently, allowing more information to be transmitted in a given amount of time. In Hungary the most popular broadband technologies are the followings: ADSL, cabel modems, microwaves and mobile technologies. Users can find general information about different technologies with advantages and disadvantages. The given services are available to residential and business users without registration and free of charge. Navigating the site is easy with no special qualifications requested. It is enough to give the postal code and select the particular street where the user is interested in services. The navigator lists updated information about available internet services: prices, bandwidth, internet service providers and technologies. After selecting the most appropriate services the user can click to the ISP's website to order particular services.

Main results, benefits and impacts

Our initiative is increasing competition in the market and awareness of customers. The system presents valid information about geographical coverage and detailed contents of the broadband services (bandwidth and technologies). This system supports the market neutrally. The Hungarian IT and telecom markets are on a fast growing track. The Hungarian market is HUF 1700 billion (EUR 7 billion) which means 8% of the GDP. The system is supported by the Government and financed by the commercial actors of the market. The Search Engine is connected to various websites of commercial actors, local governments, governmental organisation and institutions in order to access more and more users who are interested in to get connected. With these services we can significantly contribute to the growth of the internet penetration and reduction of the high level of digital illiteracy. Based on the fact who do not have any internet connection can call green number where they are informed about the accessible internet connections at the particular surrounding. The call centre gives further information about broadband technologies and other relevant information concerning information society. And the call centre is maintenance by the Hungarian Broadband Foundation. The main long-term goal of the Foundation is to present an overview of the available broadband access and offers, with geographical coverage data for all EU Member States. Coverage includes homes and businesses, public internet access points, internet cafe databases and public or paying hotspot access points. At present, the database is complete for wireline, cable and WIFI technologies for Hungary, but the project welcomes future participation that could present data for other Member States. The short-term goal of the Broadband Foundation is to develop the HBSE further with new providers and technologies (e.g. HSDPA), in order to provide a complete picture of available broadband coverage. Such a continually updated and validated database could be used as a reference for different public administration procedures like the allocation of public funds for infrastructure development, in which network availability is a key factor for decision making.

Return on investment

Return on investment: Larger than €10,000,000

Track record of sharing

The Foundation has been an active member of ERIS@. ERIS@ is a European Initiation, which seeks information society best practices in the EU Member States in order to help in wider dissemination of these. The www.broadbandfoundation.eu website was selected in 40 best EU projects at the Bridging the Broadband Gap conference held in Brussels in 2007. The Foundation is participating in an INTERREG IVC Broadband project, called Better Broadband Connections Between Regions" selected and supported by the European Commission. The specific objectives of this project are: - the improvement of the effectiveness of regional development by transferring and exchanging experiences and best practices in the field of broadband regional planning and implementation under OPs and - the share and transfer of the Broadband regional programme best practices implemented under Structural Funds 2000-2006 towards EU Regions aiming at bridging the digital gap of remote and rural areas and less developed regions under new operational programmes (2007-2013). The strategic plan of the Foundation is to participate in the EU 7th Framework Programme and another EU and international projects. The Foundation is considering the participation in the European e-Inclusion Initiative important, which seeks to build on all existing e-Inclusion activities and identify synergies between them and improvements in overall e-Inclusion impact. The Foundation is going to participate in of this campaign with projects, initiatives and experiences (EU best practice).

Lessons learnt

Lesson 1 - Sharing the national and regional best practices among various member states we strengthen the sustainable development. Developing this system avoids parallel infrastructure construction within the given industry. This is the most time, resource and cost effective way of system development. For example if one project has been implemented and operated for a while in a given member state, why should the other states develop a similar system from the beginning instead of applying the other structure already developed in other country and just customising it according to the specialities of the applicant country? Lesson 2 - We have achieved a successful and unique co-ordination of the public, private and non-profit sector of the IT industry at the same time both in Hungary and other Member States. Scope: International, National