Satellite Broadband Pushed for European Stimulus Package

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PARIS — European Union governments on May 29 urged that satellite technology be made a part of Europe’s economic stimulus package, saying satellites are particularly well-suited to providing broadband access in rural and remote areas.

Meeting in Brussels, Belgium, the European Competitiveness Council and the European Space Agency (ESA) said satellite technology should be considered as central to the European Economic Recovery Plan, which foresees spending 5 billion euros ($6.9 billion) to stimulate the economy over the next two years.

Of these funds, 1.02 billion euros has been reserved to promote broadband Internet access. The European Council, which is the 27-nation European Union’s highest decision-making body, in April agreed that 600 million euros on rural broadband development efforts would be distributed in 2009, with the remaining 420 million to be spent in 2010.

The Competitiveness Council, assembled under European Enterprise and Industry Commissioner Guenter Verheugen, met with the 18-nation ESA May 29. It was the sixth such meeting of what is known as the Space Council, which previously has crafted a broad European Space Policy.

European satellite operators have said that, in the past, rural broadband promotion in Europe has focused on local projects such as the installation of cable or DSL lines in regions badly served by existing terrestrial communications.

Because many European Commission support programs are distributed to regions, satellite broadband, with its all-Europe coverage area, has often been unnoticed as an option — especially since it provides no visible construction work in the affected regions.

The Space Council urged the European Commission and individual European governments to “consider integrating satellite technologies in future broadband projects … while respecting the principles of open competition, technology neutrality, and open and neutral Internet architecture.”