Connect Portugal wants to triple the number of families with broadband access

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The Government presented this weekend the program Connect Portugal, which defines a set of objectives in the field of the Information Society. Providing for public and private investments in a total of 2.5 billion euros, the Government led by José Sócrates wants to double the number of Internet users who are frequent in five years and in the same period to triple the number of families with broadband access, guaranteeing technology penetration of around 60 percent.

The plan also foresees the multiplication of the number of computers in schools until an average of one PC is reached for every five students, a greater bet on tele-work and tele-medicine and the creation of more jobs in the technology sector.

To achieve the objectives, a number of supports are foreseen, either in terms of tax incentives for the purchase of PCs – aimed at families with students – or through the promotion of the second-hand computer market or the provision of computers to needy students.

With regard to incentives, the executive’s proposal is that they can reach a maximum of 250 euros, an ease to be introduced in the next State Budget and that can be used by families every three years. With regard to prices, the Government also wants to act to place the price of broadband among the three most competitive in the European Union, a goal that supposes an effective and strong regulation.

The implementation of this measure is facilitated with an agreement reached between the Government and the main operators, communicated over the weekend, which will allow the reduction of waiting times by users, in accessing a broadband service provided by an operator alternative, whenever the telephone line has to be unbundled to PT. The measure is expected to speed up the process of joining broadband services.

The public sector is also a key part of the plan that devotes some points to prioritizing its modernization. The document says that it is a priority to allow the availability of fundamental public services online, bet on the formation of Public Administration and its modernization.

With regard to education, it is expected to cover all schools in the country with broadband connections. It should be remembered that this, like others, are measures that were also included in the action plans drawn up by the previous Government, which are equally ambitious. Anacom’s latest figures for the first quarter of the year point to broadband penetration of no more than 10 percent. The government goals outlined in 2003 predicted that broadband would be a reality for 50 percent of Portuguese families at this time.

Of the planned investment, one billion euros will be public financing and the remaining 1.5 billion will be guaranteed by private funds. According to the announcement by José Sócrates, this investment will materialize in four areas: companies, public administration, schools and families.

During the presentation of the program, the Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education, Mariano Gago, admitted that the Portuguese telecommunications market «is not very competitive in terms of broadband offer».

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