BRUSSELS (Reuters) - One thousand European towns and cities will each be able to claim 15,000 euros ($18,464) of EU funding this year to set up free WiFi hotspots in parks, squares and public buildings.
The European Commission invited municipalities from across the European Union, as well as Norway and Iceland, on Tuesday to register for funding vouchers, which will be distributed on a first-come first-served basis in mid-May.
The WiFi voucher scheme is part of European Commission plans, announced by its president Jean-Claude Juncker in September 2016, to boost high-speed connectivity and strengthen consumer protection in the digital sector.
The local authorities securing funds will have to provide networks free of charge and free of advertising for at least three years and the money should not duplicate existing installations.
There will be four further and larger offers of funding before the end of 2020, with an overall budget of 120 million euros. Some 6,000 to 8,000 local communities are expected to benefit.
To ensure geographical spread, each participating country will receive a minimum of 15 vouchers.
($1 = 0.8124 euros)
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Peter Graff)