In European bureaucratic speak they call them white and grey areas. In white areas there is no provider of broadband access services currently operating and none is expected to emerge within the next three years; while in the grey areas there is already one operator providing an internet service, but no fast broadband. In everyday terms these are internet black spots: homes and businesses without access to a decent 21st century connection.
In the province of Malaga there are more than 37,000 households and businesses that are victims of the digital divide.
But they won't be for much longer: Avatel, the firm selected to carry out the Programa Único scheme in Malaga province, has already started work to take fibre optic connections to areas without broadband coverage, with a view to finishing the roll-out before the end of 2023.
Programa Único is an incentive scheme set up by the Spanish ministry of Financial Affairs and Digital Transformation and financed by the Next Generation EU funds.
Its mission is to bring to Spain the "universalisation of public networks of electronic communications capable of providing ultrafast broadband services (of speeds of more than 300Mbps and up to 1Gbps) to areas without adequate coverage or plans to provide it within the next three years, through offering help to private sector operators".
Avatel won the contract to implement the plan for the province of Malaga, with a budget of 7,221,670 euros. Throughout the first quarter of the year it has been showing its plans to local authorities, the first step in its journey towards wiping out the digital divide, in small and not-so-small municipalities.
Work to lay the fibre optic cables has already started in isolated areas of Nerja and Carratraca.
"This will be the first time that fibre optic reaches these 37,000 homes and businesses that will have access to speeds of 600Mbps. The creation of the network to reach all of these isolated points will involve an investment of more than nine million euros," said company sources.
Avatel is the country's fifth telecommunications operator and a leader in rural areas. The company's roots lie on the Costa del Sol, although it is now a giant nationwide. It was born in 2012 in Marbella as a local operator for Wimax internet networks - that is, via radio - and grew rapidly thanks to the acquisition of other local operators. Its fibre optic trail has now reached two million homes and businesses. It currently has 300 shops open in the areas where it operates and has more than 2,500 employees. It has a wide presence in rural areas of the province of Malaga.
"The start of the work to install the network in each town will depend on different factors related to obtaining permissions from town halls," said the firm. The deadline for the completion of the plan is 31 December 2023.
Avatel will provide the ultrafast connection through FTTH (Fibre To The Home), which allows several devices to be connected at the same time and is ideal for home-working and streaming videos.