ECONOMY

Fast Internet to get cheaper

Prices for broadband high-speed Internet services (ADSL) are expected to converge with those elsewhere in Europe in the first half of 2004, Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said after successive meetings with colleagues on the progress of investment programs subsidized under the EU’s Third Community Support Framework (CSFIII) plan. He said the schemes approved to date in the framework of CSF’s Information Society program total 1,481 million euros (52 percent of the total budgeted until 2006) and include 350 million euros for investment in broadband services, the funding of sites with important cultural and historical content, and plans for increasing the number of users through network services in public administration, education and research. Currently Greece is the EU laggard in the use of ADSL services and prices are considered especially high, having provoked the intervention of the European Commission. Although absorption this year has exceeded 100 percent, spending is still considered at low levels. Tenders have been issued for a further 86 projects and sub-programs, with budgets totaling 770 million euros. Ministers have discussed a reallocation of funds expected to lead to cuts in agriculture and health programs which have the lowest absorption rates. Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos said the programs for tourism, technology and small businesses will be boosted. Final decisions will be adopted during the CSF monitoring committee session in Thessaloniki tomorrow, which will decide on the allocation of reserve funds of 2 billion euros to the programs making the fastest progress. The lion’s share is expected to go toward road projects, while significant amounts will also be approved for the environment and education.