Europe leapfrogs US in broadband take-up

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The number of European broadband users has topped the 100 million mark, according to the European Commission's latest study on broadband digital divide.

The Information and Communication Technologies Progress Report surveyed around 150,000 households across the 27 member states.

Europe was placed some 20 per cent higher than the US and Canada combined when it comes to high-speed connections.

An encouraging 96 percent of European schools are connected to the internet, while 77 percent of EU businesses are now using the internet when dealing with banks.

However, the report also revealed a digital divide which experts fear could damage competitiveness across the region.

Some 40 million EU citizens are still not online, and just a fifth of respondents in Romania indicated that they use the internet regularly.

In Greece, a mere quarter regularly access the web, and even in Italy only a third of the population is in this category.

In terms of e-government the UK can hold its head up high with an impressive 90 per cent of basic government services now online.

But citizens in Poland, Bulgaria and Slovakia still have to make time to physically queue up to renew their driving licences, for example.

In a bid to raise the broadband benchmark across the region, the report said that the EU is setting itself the target of increasing broadband penetration rates from the current 20 percent of the EU population to 30 percent by 2010.
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