EU regulators have warned that a million jobs across Europe could be at stake if national authorities fail to boost high-speed broadband internet roll-out and take-up.
The commissioner for the digital agenda, Neelie Kroes, said action to complete ultra-fast fixed and mobile internet coverage would hold the key to Europe's wider prospects for economic growth.
Unveiling new proposals, she said Europe 'cannot sit by and allow our businesses to continue to compete against Asian businesses with internet 100 times faster than our own'. Ms Kroes said there was complacency about broadband among national and local authorities.
The commissioner outlined three main proposals. She said national bodies had to encourage investment but safeguard competition. They also had to free up radio spectrum for wireless services and work out how best to increase private and public investment in broadcast networks.
In detailed proposals, Brussels also suggested using post-recessionary times of high unemployment to encourage new public works programmes underpinning private investment, to dig extra fixed-line networks.
On average, 94% of Europeans had high-speed broadband access by the end of 2009, but that proportion fell to 80% in rural areas.
Brussels estimates total private and public investment in new fibre-optic cable networks by 2020 at between €180 billion and €270 billion.
The Commission wants every European citizen to have access to basic broadband by 2013 and fast or ultra-fast broadband by 2020.
Figures show that Ireland's broadband access rates at 22.2% of the population are still below the EU average of 24.85. Some 53% of Irish households have a broadband connection, which is slightly below the EU average, according to Eurostat figures.
Ireland lags behind 13 countries with Denmark at the top with 37.8%, while Bulgaria is at the bottom of the 27 with just 13%.
Only 1% of consumers in Europe have a high speed fibre connection in their homes compared to 12% of Japanese and 15% of South Koreans.
The Commission believes that fast and ultra-fast broadband could revolutionise people's lives in the same way that railways did 100 years ago, with applications not just for jobs and businesses, but for health and education as well.