Of all the places for a technical glitch to cut off the internet for hours, you would not expect it to be at the Broadband World Forum in Amsterdam.
It was ironic, yet appropriate for what was discussed during the day.
Via a video link – not live of course – the European Commission’s technology chief hit out at the state of the region’s fast networks.
“High speed networks are the backbone of the digital market but compared to international competitors, Europe lags behind in providing those networks – fixed and wireless,” said the commissioner for the digital agenda in Europe, Neelie Kroes.
“That’s not sustainable; we can no longer to afford to ignore this growth.”
Europe as a continent has on average the fastest Internet in the world according to content delivery network Akamai.
It has an average peak connection speed of 23 megabits per second, compared to the global average of 15.9 Mbps.
But there is a significant speed gap between richer and poorer countries.
The European Commission has set a 2020 goal of a minimum speed of 30 Mbps for the region and having at least half of homes subscribing to internet connections above 100 Mbps.
Under the new Coalition government’s plan, Australians will have access to speeds of at least 50 Mbps by 2019.
The former government’s NBN promised maximum speeds of 1 gigabit per second, but the Coalition’s alternative has a maximum of 100 Mbps – a 10th of the total speed of Labor’s network.
The difference is the total cost of each network to rollout: Labor’s was set to cost $37.4 billion and the Coalition’s $29.5 billion.
Innovation, infrastructure key for boosting speed
The cost of upgrading the infrastructure poses a challenge for Europe, too.
“There are many countries in the region in Europe that do not have fast networks,” the head of the European Commission’s broadband policy unit Anna Krzyzanowska said.
“For the moment they do not have really a good hope of getting these networks because we face decision making which is not focusing of the key success – visionary investment.
“Investment that is based currently on the business case is not going to unlock innovation that we need for the future.”
But telecommunications equipment seller Alcatel-Lucent believes the fibre should go to the most economic point.
“It doesn’t necessarily need to go all the way [to the home], especially now with these new technologies,” said the company’s vice president of strategy and public affairs, Ric Clark.
“I think to a certain extent the demand will drive how far that fibre is pushed.”