Olav Harjo, director of the Estonian Broadband Development Foundation (EBDF), said: "Until today there was no proper Internet connection in Antsla, which is a great place to live and work – and living and working is more and more complicated these days without a proper Internet connection. Antsla's not the only place to benefit, either – operators have the chance to connect homes and businesses to the high-speed network in a number of other municipalities in Võru County, as well as in Järva County and Lääne-Viru County."
The network of fibre-optic cables, which is designed to cover every town and village in Estonia, is due for completion by 2015. This will result in 98% of all households, businesses and agencies in the country being within 1.5 km of the network. The opportunities provided by the network will be available to all communications service providers, who will use the network to offer services to their clients.
Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Juhan Parts said:“I’m really pleased to see that the EstWin project, which we launched with the Association of Information Technology and Telecommunications of Estonia two years ago, is producing tangible results. The project’s given work to dozens of companies and hundreds of people – from surveyors and designers to builders and more. But it’s only the beginning: a lot more work lies ahead. There’s still almost 6000 km of network to construct!”
Parts says it is important that everybody, individuals and companies alike, have high-speed access to the services of the information society. “The services that the state and private companies provide these days are largely Internet-based,” he explained. “A high-quality broadband connection will enable people to make use of them wherever they live and work, even if that’s the middle of the forest!”
Minister for Regional Affairs Siim Kiisler says that a high-quality data communications network which is fast and reliable is one of the most important steps in regional policy for the development of life in Estonia: the Internet makes it possible for everyone to work, further themselves, acquire knowledge and talk to their local government and the state from their homes. “What’s important is that high-speed Internet makes it possible to bring new jobs to places where people are already living,” the minister said. “It’s only natural that the state’s putting its back into supporting it.”
However, the minister added that if people are to continue to live in small towns and villages in future, another step needs to be taken: “And that’s in education and business policy. The issue here is whether our vocational schools and universities are teaching the kinds of professions that people can make a living out of with the help of the Internet if they’re living in little towns and villages or out on a farm somewhere. So the next big question in regional development is education policy and new jobs.”
Minister of Agriculture Helir-Valdor Seeder said: “Putting together this high-speed network will lead to uniform development throughout Estonia, contribute to growth in business and boost employment in rural areas. Agricultural production isn’t possible any more without modern technology or the Internet either, and in that sense the broadband network supports the development plan for rural life in Estonia.”
Municipal mayor of Antsla Tiit Tõnts said: "We've really felt the lack of a reliable, high-speed Internet connection in Antsla and the municipality. If your connection drops out, you can't get money out of the ATM, you can't pay for things in the shop and you can't pay for petrol using your card. High-speed Internet is as basic a service in the 21st century as the water supply and sewerage. There are a lot of people in neighbouring areas who like to spend their summers here but work at the same time. They've had to use the WiFi network in the library. Working from home or away from the office and setting up much-needed high-speed Internet connections in schools are things we’ll be doing here. Our companies, too – like Antsla Inno, a furniture manufacturer that's created 200 jobs, and the Antsla Consumers Association – will be able to take their work to the next level."
Olav Harjo describes the development of the network: "It was a year and a day ago, on 23 August 2010, that the first few metres of cable were laid. Despite the fact that work came to a halt for half a year due to the harsh winter, we've managed to establish more than 500 km of the network so far. Our teams are working on it every day, and by the end of the year we'll have completed 1200 km. By the end of next year that figure should have reached 2500 km, and the network as a whole, all 6000 km of it, is due for completion by the end of 2015."
The EBDF's partners on the project in Antsla and neighbouring municipalities have been Antsla municipality and its leaders, Eltel Networks (who are constructing the network), the Estonian Information System Authority and the Estonian Road Administration. Elion has invested hundreds of thousands of euros in the modernisation of access networks in Antsla, thanks to which the residents and businesses in Antsla are now able to make use of the high-speed Internet connection.
The EBDF launched a third public procurement in August for the construction of a further 1000 km of the network.
The projected cost of the basic network project is 70 million euros, the majority of which is being financed from the European Union's Structural Funds. Financing is taking place through the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Agriculture. The project as a whole is even bigger financially, since Internet service providers are funding the construction of the distribution network and the acquisition of the equipment needed to provide services. The total cost to service providers and the state of covering Estonia with high-speed Internet may exceed 350 million euros.
For further information please contact:
Director, Estonian Broadband Development Foundation
Telephone: +372 631 0555 / E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Antsla municipal mayor
Telephone: +372 785 5390 / E-mail: email@example.com