The European Broadband Competence Offices Network took place it’s closing Annual Conference

The event entitled "Working together for connectivity" took place online on October 26, 2021. The Annual Conference marked the BCO Network's five-year milestone and everything achieved in this period, working in the specialized Support Mechanism of the European Commission.

The participants reported the success and intensive activities of the Network with a large number of members and conducted over 55 specialized trainings on various topics in the field of connectivity.

Special attention was paid to the success of the European Commission's WiFi4EU initiative under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) to promote a free high-speed and high-quality wireless internet connection in public places.

Mario Milouchev, Director in DG AGRI in the European Commission, presented the long-term vision for EU's rural areas and digital perspectives. Mr Milouchev stressed on the need for ongoing activities to build high-speed connectivity in remote and sparsely populated areas of the Union, where 30% of the European population lives. He considered the creation of competences offices in each Member State, some regional offices and the countries of the Balkan Peninsula as a huge success for the Network.

Rita Wezenbeek from DG CNECT in the EC presented the Recovery and resilience facility (RRF) as a tool to achieve gigabit targets and the Digital Compass. She focused on the high targets set in the EU Digital Compass and the Proposal for a Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing the 2030 Policy Programme "Path to the Digital Decade", which introduces a stable governance framework based on an annual cooperation mechanism to achieve the targets in the field of digital skills, digital infrastructures, digital transformation of businesses and digitalization of public services.

Krzysztof Kuik from DG COMP in EC presented the actions for adapting the State aid rules to changing policies and technologies.

Zlatina Nikolova, Head of the Bulgarian BCO and Director of the Information Technology Directorate at the Ministry of Transport, Information Technology and Communications, participated in the round table on the achievements in the period 2017-2021 and the forthcoming challenges for the national competence offices. The debate was moderated by Mr Jan Dröge, Head of BCO Network Support Facility. The Rural Digital Futures, Gigabit targets and the Digital Compass, EU Structural Funds and the Recovery and Resilience Facility, State aid and evolving technology, and CEF2 Digital have been discussed. Mrs Zlatina Nikolova presented the achievements for the five-year period in Bulgaria, the difficulties regarding the implementation of the State aid rules, the forthcoming activities for ensuring broadband connectivity through RRF and CEF2.

The conference ended with closing remarks by Nicola de Michelis from DG REGIO in EC on the future role of BCO 2.0 and the role of the structural funds in achieving gigabit targets.

Useful links:

Rural Action Plan: https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/new-push-europe…

Communication on the Long-Term Vision for Rural Areas: https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/default/files/strategy/strategy_documen…

The Path to the Digital Decade: https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/europe-fit-digi…

Communication: "2030 Digital Compass: the European way for the Digital Decade": https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A52021DC0118

The Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI): https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/policies/desi

The Connectivity Toolbox: https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/policies/connectivity-toolbox

Connectivity Toolbox roadmaps: https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/library/connectivity-toolbox-m…

CEF Digital: https://hadea.ec.europa.eu/programmes/connecting-europe-facility_en