Statement by Ryan Heath on the telecoms single market
Brussels - EC/Berlaymont
On 11 September 2013, Ryan Heath, Spokesperson of Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the EC in charge of Digital Agenda, made a statement on the telecoms package.
The "Connected Continent" legislative package, when adopted, will reduce consumer charges, simplify red tape faced by companies, and bring a range of new rights for both users and service providers, so that Europe can once again be a global digital leader.
Only the original language version is authentic and it prevails in the event of its differing from the translated versions.
||SOUNDBITE by Ryan Heath, Spokesperson of Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the EC in charge of Digital Agenda, (in ENGLISH):The EC is absolutely committed to pushing roaming premiums out of the market and we have got a 2 way approach to do that, what I call the carrot and the stick. So the carrot is that if the phone companies offer you an EU wide phone plan so that your phone plan works everywhere in the EU, we will exempt them from almost all of the EU roaming regulation. But if they don't do that, you as a consumer will still have a way to escape roaming charges and the way that will work is that you will be able to choose a different operator every time you travel to a new EU country if you're not happy with the prices your operator is providing in the same way that you can choose a Wi-Fi network today, you'll get a little message that will say "We offer you unlimited data roaming for 1 euro a day" or something like that and so either the consumer will be able to escape the overcharging that happens today and what we will also do is ban all incoming call charges whenever you're roaming across the EU.
||SOUNDBITE by Ryan Heath (in ENGLISH):Another very important change we want to bring in to save consumers' money and to bring about a real single market for telecoms is in relation to the calls that you make from your home country to another EU country, so we are talking about the landlines at your home or your office. Today you get charged an international call price and what we are saying is there should be no international calls within the EU and this proposed regulation would mean that you couldn't be charged more than the cost of a domestic long distance call so we are getting rid of the idea of international calls within the EU and making it a much lower price for consumers.
||SOUNDBITE by Ryan Heath (in ENGLISH):Neelie Kroes has being committed for a very long time to making sure all Europeans have access to an open internet and a really key part of that is making sure that you can use any of the content and the services that you want when you go on line - whether it's your phone, your tablet or your desktop computer. You should be able to get everything you want to access when you use any of those devices so what the EC is proposing is a ban on the blocking and throttling of content. So a company can't say we don't offer Skype or WhatsApp or they can't make it work so slowly that you can't use it any more. The other side of that is that we need to make sure you still have a choice over Internet's speed because every network is different and everyone has a different budget so you should choose 'Do you want the best possible internet at 10 Mb per second, 30 Mb per second, a 100Mb per second, you would still have that choice as a consumer. So we keep the pipes open for all of the content but then we need to make sure that there's actually content there as well so we don't for example ban the idea that you could provide a specialized service and let me give a couple of examples. An App on a tablet or a Smart-phone is a specialized service and in the last 5 years alone since the creation of this App economy, we have got 794.000 new jobs in Europe in the App economy, almost half of them are really good jobs like software developers so this is a huge part of our economy and we can't kill that by getting the net neutrality regulation wrong. What we also need to make sure is that there is the chance to develop new services on the internet and to give you a really obvious example there, we've got more and more health procedures that take place through digital technology whether that's really high quality scans being sent between hospitals or even things like remote controlled surgeries. Now we can't have a situation where someone watching a video allows a remote controlled surgery to stop and someone's life is in danger so we have to find a way that allows both of those possibilities to take place and that is what we are aiming at with this regulation and the consumer can always know that if they are not getting the speed and the service that they are paying for, they will have a new right to walk away from the contract and so you don't have to rely on a regulator or a government or a company to give you what you are paying for, you have the control in your own hands to walk away if you're not getting the speed that you were promised.
||SOUNDBITE by Ryan Heath (in ENGLISH):A lot of people have heard of Net Neutrality but they are not sure what it means and there is a lot of debate about what it means or how you actually put it in place so it's a very tricky policy issue to tackle and the situation today in Europe is that 96% of people in Europe don't have legal protection of Net Neutrality, so the guarantee that they can use all of the internet content and services that they would like to; there is only protection in the Netherlands and in Slovenia and that is something we really want to change because there is about 200 million people in Europe who can't access Skype or WhatsApp and other services like that or the services become so slow that it becomes unusable so we really want to protect that right but also make sure that the internet economy can still develop and to recognize the limits of regulation where we can't anticipate all the future changes in the internet so we want to make sure that you can get the best possible internet in your subscription and leave the way for an even better internet to develop in the future.
||SOUNDBITE by Ryan Heath (in ENGLISH):One of the things the Commission is very keen to do with this telecoms package is simplify the regulations, get rid of the red tape that companies face because we have a ridiculous situation today where there isn't a single pan-European telecoms company; so we are talking about a field, digital services and internet which is borderless, there should be no borders in this field; in this sector, this is crazy that there isn't a single pan-European telecoms company so we need to be very thorough in making sure that companies only have to deal with one system where possible instead of 28 systems like they do now so for example we will be introducing and proposing a new right that a company can be authorized just once in their home country but then have the right to sell services across all of the EU Member States and we are going to lift the threshold so that it's harder to regulate telecoms sub-markets so that we are trying to normalize these markets; and other behind the scenes changes like harmonizing the way that you as a telecoms company can rent access to other networks that you don't own, in most cases in another country that you are trying to expand to so that it's easier for you as a company to offer more and fairly price services to more consumers and in this way the companies stand a benefit, a huge amount from the package that is on the table today.
||SOUNDBITE by Ryan Heath (in ENGLISH):One of the geekiest sides of telecoms policy that I get very excited about and which is a very important part of this legislative package is looking at how we allocate spectrum in the EU. Now it's spectrum rights that allow companies to deliver the mobile phone services that you enjoy like 3G or 4G internet for example or the Wi-Fi networks that are so useful when you're in a station or a café or at home so what we need to do is getting more of that spectrum allocated so that you can use it for wireless internet and internet on the go but it is a very difficult process at the moment because it's done in a different way, on a different timeline, at a different price, in every Member State so it makes it impossible for a company to have a pan-European investment strategy; you can't say: 'Ok, I want to spend X million euro this year to move into the East 3 new markets or the 6 new markets, this is impossible as a company to do that today. The consequence is that we don't have 4G. Brussels is a very good example, you have a lot of cities in Africa with 4G at the moment and not the capital of Europe, that is not the situation we should be in; we should have 4G widely available in Europe, we should have a lot of wireless options and the companies shouldn't be squeezed to death in the process of acquiring that spectrum. So we've put in place and are proposing a set of ways to coordinate that spectrum allocation. That still leaves the ultimate control in the hands of the EU Member States but helps us all get on to the same page so that everyone gets the services they need.
||SOUNDBITE by Ryan Heath (in ENGLISH):Like most people I've spent time tied up in the call centres of telephone, internet and TV companies and it is not always a pleasant experience, it is very difficult to understand what you do or don't get in a lot of the contracts, it can often be difficult to leave the contract if you are not happy with the service and to prove that you are not getting what you are paying for. So we are bringing in, in this proposal, a range of ways to make it easier for you to enforce your rights as a consumer and to make sure your services keep working if you do change providers and so a couple of examples of that are that you would have the ability to independently test the real speed of your internet connection, the national regulators will have to provide a way on the web for you to check that speed and then for you to put up a red flag and say: 'I'm not getting what I'm paying for, I walk away'. You would also have the right for example to get very clear and comparable information in the contract, so if you are buying 100Mb or 500Mb per months of data, you can get an indication of what you can actually use and view and consume for that amount instead of just having to guess or be a technical expert. You would also have the right to take a 12 months only contract if that's what you want so you're not locked in any longer than you need to be and other little things that don't seem that important when you're just taking out a contract but when you leave actually become very important; so for example if you take an email address with your internet provider, you will be able to get your email forwarded for free when you go to the new provider and so that way you don't get cut off from your friends, your family, your business contacts, you have got ways to really take advantage of a single market in Europe and get more of the services that you want.