Remote Greek Villages Get The Net



published in The National Herald
November 30, 2019


To all our Hellenic Genealogy Geek members - This could make a huge difference when trying to communicate with relatives in Greece.


Travelers and residents in Greece's far outpost remote villages and islands get to enjoy the natural wonders but not the Internet which was not available or slow to those who had alternate means of connecting, but a European Union project is helping bring them Wi Fi and access to a whole new electronic world. 

In a feature, Euronews revealed how it's been a revelation and changing lives for people who've lived in faraway villages in mountains, valleys and elsewhere, such as Megalo Papigo, in the Zagori region of northern Greece's Pindos Mountains, with some 5000 villages getting broadband Internet access. 

"I have experienced life before and after the Internet," Nikos Tsoumanis who has a small hotel-restaurant and grocery store there told the news site about the discovery. "Before there were many difficulties in terms of communication, customer relations, the sale of our products, and for promoting our companies. And now the speed is huge." 

Greece has had a poor record for Internet access until recent years and in many villages, it is on-again, off-again, leaving people to rely on paid sticks from mobile phone companies and other products allowing them to connect. 

It helps solve another problem for them as Greece requires tax returns be filed electronically, leaving residents in places without Wi Fi to find cafes or other places where it is available and the program has connected hundreds of thousands of people in 45 percent of Greece. 

The Zagori region is famous for rafting and hiking and the arrival of broadband has resulted in an increase in tourism and more, the story said. 

"There has been a 30 per cent increase in tourist bookings. Secondly, our agricultural products are sold all over the world, via the Internet. Our village, our region has come out of isolation," said Zagori's Mayor George Soukouvelos. 

The total budget for this project is 199,715,75 euros ($221,095) as the scheme began some 12 years ago but hadn't reached many parts of Greece, leaving residents without access and tourists and Greeks returning to their villages in the summer cut off as well unless they use other means of connecting. 

"What we see is that a number of startups or businesses have been stabilized in these areas, and remain there without having to move their facilities to more urban areas due to this simple connection that they can use," Antonis Tzortzakakis, General Secretary of |Telecommunications and Posts, Ministry of Digital Governance told Euronews. 

Greece's state-run telecommunications company OTE has installed 12,000 kilometers (7,456 miles) of optical fiber in more than 2,000 remote villages and has provided broadband Internet in 320,000 inhabitants and now the OTE network in these areas has a penetration capacity of up to 25% and it's increasing all the time. 

"This project is a good example of collaboration between public and private sector. We operate now these networks for the next 15 years, and afterwards the infrastructures will be transferred back to the State," George Stathopoulos, the Rural Director of OTE, the largest technology company in Greece told the news site. 

It’s not just residents and small businesses benefiting from being able to access the Internet and peddle their goods anywhere in the world. The luxury hotel, 1700 Hotel & Spa in Micro Papigo, located at an altitude of 1000 meters, said it’s critical for getting customers. 

"The tourism and technology sectors are developing in parallel and it is very important for us, the entrepreneurs, to take a step forward to provide the best possible service," said Elsa Exarhou Kenteri, Manager of Mikro Papigo 1700 Hotel & Spa.