Six years after Dr. Solomon and Gergana Passy’s open letter of 20 June 2011 to the European Commission and their pilot article in the newspaper “24 hours”, with which they launched a pan-European project for universal WiFi internet access, the Bulgarian idea has become a European solution! In their letter, the Passy’s state that “Internet access should be seen as the EU’s newest, fifth freedom, along with the free movement of people, goods, capital, services” and “one of the fundamental human rights…” of our time.
On 29 May 2017, the European institutions (Commission, Parliament, Council) agreed to fund and implement the #WiFi4EU policy with an initial budget of €120 million, which will cover 6-8000 municipalities from all Member States. Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, said that “WiFi4EU will push free wireless internet access to the main centres of public life in European locations by 2020”. Local authorities wishing to provide Wi-Fi in areas where no similar public or private service yet exists will be able to apply for funding through a simple and non-bureaucratic process.
On the occasion of #WiFi4EU, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova issued a statement saying, “I welcome this initiative as an important step towards increasing digital access for all women and men in Europe. It is particularly important for bridging digital divides, for women, for rural areas, and a guarantee that the digital revolution is a development revolution for us all.”
The previous initiative of the Passy team – the single USB charger for GSM in the EU – was implemented between 2008 and 2014, for which the European Minister Gergana Passy was awarded by President Nicolas Sarkozy with the Order of the Legion of Honour and elected national digital champion. She and Solomon, with the efforts of their inspiring team at the Atlantic Digital Network, also implemented a number of pioneering Free WiFi actions that demonstrated the effectiveness of this policy. There were also failures, such as Solomon’s in 2013, basing his election campaign in Plovdiv on Free WiFi.
About #WiFi4EU, Solomon and Gergana said, “We are satisfied that Bulgaria has given birth to yet another forward-looking European digital policy and that a united EU is more effective than individual countries and governments. WiFi4EU will bring peripheral municipalities closer to capitals, strengthen social inclusiveness and consolidate Europe through technology. We are optimistic about the synergy with the future EU Commissioner Maria Gabriel, through whose digital portfolio #WiFi4EU can be deployed on a pan-European scale. We believe this project has a global charge to be pushed around the world, as highlighted by the Director-General of UNESCO.