Officials of the European Commission (EC) laid out a multi-point plan on Wednesday for establishing a single, unified digital market throughout the European Union (EU) that would boost the regional economy while enabling European online firms to achieve competitive inroads against U.S-based web giants that hold market power in the EU.
Unveiled by EC Vice President Andrus Ansip, the EC “Digital Single Market Strategy” envisions sixteen separate initiatives that are targeted for adoption next year. In turn, these initiatives would be built upon three “pillars”—(1) improved access to digital goods and services, (2) establishment of optimal conditions and a level playing field for digital networks and services to flourish, and (3) maximizing the growth potential of the digital economy. As part of the first pillar, the EC will propose (1) harmonized rules on cross-border e-commerce, (2) the elimination of “geo-blocking” whereby online retailers deny consumers access to websites based on the customer’s location, and (3) refinements to EU copyright law to permit “wider online access to works across the EU.” The EC also said it would launch an antitrust inquiry into the EU ecommerce sector that will include a “comprehensive analysis” of search engines, price comparison websites, and other online platforms and their role in the EU economy.
As part of the second pillar, the EC said it would overhaul EU telecom rules to facilitate spectrum coordination and frequency assignments “at a national level” and create “incentives for investment in high-speed broadband.” Under the third pillar, the EC intends to (1) propose a “free flow of data” initiative to include provisions for cloud computing, and (2) define “priorities for standards and interoperability.” The Digital Single Market plan will be listed on the agenda of the European Council meeting scheduled to take place on June 25-26.