Questioning whether current European Union (EU) rules on universal service are sufficient in the digital age, the European Commission (EC) initiated a consultation this week to determine if or how EU universal service rules should be updated to cover broadband access. Adopted in 2002, the EU universal service rules now in effect guarantee public access to dial up Internet services as well as to basic telephone services. The consultation document released on Tuesday seeks public input on (1) whether the current concept of universal service, which is designed for traditional voice telephony, remains valid in today’s digital environment, (2) whether universal service principles should be used to promote the EU’s goal of extending broadband to all citizens, (3) what balance should be struck between a coordinated EU-wide approach and a more flexible approach that recognizes the needs of individual EU member states, and (4) the extent to which public funding sources should be used in expanding broadband universally. The EC is slated to close the consultation process on May 7 and to draft related legislative proposals by the end of the year. EC Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes said the consultation “will help us . . . to ensure that all EU citizens have access to essential communications services, including fast Internet.”