"The Internet is the oxygen of our digital economy and society. We are more and more connected, at every moment, everywhere.” - Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market.
...It’s no wonder that the European Commission is currently pushing forward a development strategy for all things telecommunications. The Commission sees the availability of effective telecoms systems, including satisfactory broadband, as a key plank of its Digital Single Market strategy (on which we have written previously, for example here).
To that end, the Commission reached agreement with the European Parliament earlier this year to bring about an end to roaming charges within Europe. The new rules bring network access charges into line with what consumers would pay in their home territory, and should be fully implemented within two years (i.e. by June 2017). More contentiously, the same legislation also establish net neutrality rules for the first time in the EU. These rules are intended to limit the ability of network operators to block or throttle customers’ access to particular online content or services, and will apply even sooner – by 30 April 2016. The Commission’s memo on these changes can be found here.
A substantial further development was announced back in September when the Commission launched a ‘360 degree review’ of telecoms rules and Europe’s current and, more importantly, future broadband requirements. The first stage of this review comes in the form of a consultation in which the Commission hopes to hear not only from organisations but the general public also – in fact the consultation is open to all “users, organisations, public bodies, and businesses across all sectors”. Casting the net far and wide should allow the Commission to understand the needs of businesses, such as those that “develop applications and services that depend on connectivity” like eBay, Facebook and Uber, but also to anticipate private requirements and to put together a plan for meeting both business and private needs.
The broadband consultation is intended to gauge the quality, speed and availability of internet provision that will be required in the future. By understanding what Europe will need in the years to come, the Commission hopes to be better equipped to create effective policies to promote the growth and strength of connectivity networks and incentivise investors to fund them. The overall aim is to unify Europe’s telecoms industry and reduce / eradicate inequalities between Member States’ telecoms regulations and pricing structures, which is further reflected in the Telecoms Framework consultation. Further insight into the review can be found in the Commission’s Q&A here. #EUhaveyoursay by submitting a response to the consultations and help ensure that Europe is ready for the next stage of the digital revolution!