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How Romania built its blazingly fast internet

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Over the past decade, Romania -a south-eastern European nation unremarkable otherwise on the international stage- has been constantly amongst the best performers in the world when it comes to internet speed. Small neighbourhood networks played a big part in expanding internet coverage country-wide.

Romania might be the second poorest country in the European Union but it comes on top as the EU member state with the fastest internet connection. Romania scores well on the world stage too having been ranked in 2021 as having the 5th fastest internet on the planet according to several testing and network diagnostics companies.

According to Eurostat, Romania’s internet penetration rate is also amongst the highest on the continent.  Romania outruns in this regard some of the richest countries in Europe such as France, Belgium,  Finland and Austria to name but a few.

With an 88% coverage rate, Romania had benefitted greatly from its small neighbourhood Internet service providers offering an affordable way to get online. These small local entrepreneurs acted as the backbone of Romania’s future internet success. They set up small networks covering a few blocks with no more than several hundred customers.

According to International Telecommunication Union(ITU) report  - the UN body dealing with information and communication technologies- Romania’s internet success can be to a great extent attributed to this phenomenon of widespread networks.

The European Commission has endorsed local networks as a "complementary" model to help grow internet connectivity.

According to an UN study 2.9 billion people are still offline. 96% of them are located in the least developed countries in the world. The lack of connectivity brings all kinds of issues, from extended corruption to lack of press freedom and economic development. Many of those who are digitally excluded face unimaginable challenges as a result, ranging from illiteracy and limited access to education to a lack of basic digital skills and lifelong poverty.

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Romania’s stellar internet has helped greatly with developing a robust IT sector, an e-commerce market that has more than tripled over the last 5 years. Still, all is not rosy and almost unsurprisingly the state has been unable to keep up with the private sector's technological development. There is no sign of digitalization of the public administration and Romanian citizens with their blazingly fast internet connection are still suffocated by red tape and a bureaucracy well entranced in the early 90s.

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