== CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY ==

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honoured to have the opportunity to address this distinguished audience today.

I am thankful to the Center on Regulation in Europe (the CERRE) for inviting me to open this Seminar which takes place in conjunction with the publication of CERRE's report "Towards a robust regulatory framework for the 21st century information society".

I am eager to hear more about your experts' views on some of the key priorities of the European Commission.

In 2015, with the Digital Single Market strategy, the DSM strategy, the Commission presented to the world the vision of where we want European citizens and businesses to be in a few years from now.

Leading in the digital revolution requires high-speed, secure, and trustworthy infrastructures able to distribute high-quality, competitive, and innovative content. With the DSM, the European Commission seeks to address these needs and commits to set a regulatory environment enabling innovation, investment, fair competition and a level-playing field.

Our "to-do" list is composed of 16 key actions, to be delivered in a timely manner.

2016 will be a crucial year as we will reform two major policy pillars: the Regulatory framework for electronic communications and the Audiovisual Media Services Directive.

 

Regulatory framework for electronic communications

We are now taking stock on how to best align the rulebook governing telecoms to what we need if we want to build a functioning Digital Union that enables investment in high-capacity telecom infrastructure, next generation networks, 5G. Because telecom regulation is not just about the telecom sector, as was the case in the past. Today it is about the digitisation of our economy and society, in particular the digitisation of industry. That is the yardstick against which we need to measure our ambition. 

The preliminary results of the recently closed Public consultations on the telecoms regulatory framework and on future connectivity confirm not only the timeliness of the review but also that the question of high-quality connectivity is high on the agendas of Europeans.

Our ambition for a truly connected society is widely shared by the large number (250 on the telecoms review and 1500 on future connectivity needs) and broad range of stakeholders who expressed their views.

Stakeholders, including public authorities, expect us to be more ambitious when it comes to connectivity. They also support the inclusion of investment in and take-up of very high-performance fixed and mobile broadband infrastructure as policy objectives of the future Telecoms Framework.

How can we make sure that the law favours ubiquitous connectivity?

Views differ on this point.

To those who fear that a favourable environment for investments puts competition at risk, I say that sustainable competition is the best driver for investments. Investment cannot be used as a trade-off for re-monopolisation.

At the same time, regulation should reward all market players for the risks they take in investing in highest capacity networks.

The data economy requires much more from networks in 2016 than it did in 2009. And it will require even more in 2020. I am convinced that the demand for speed will rise exponentially in coming years.

This will not only be the case only for densely populated areas. Social, economic and territorial cohesion is at stake and ensuring coverage of the most inaccessible areas is one of our challenges.

There is no "either/or" answer to this problem. Whereas some stakeholders call for public funding, we should build a case for private investments as well, for example via a stronger emphasis on co-investment models.

Also, in light of the increasing importance of wireless broadband as a source of connectivity, we must enhance the spectrum management framework. The timing is optimal for making the EU lead in 5G take-up. But evidence and support from industry is key to underpin a coordinated spectrum management in the Union.

With regard to the level-playing field, a clear majority (68%) of the respondents want fair competition and call for putting all comparable communications services under the same regulatory umbrella and to apply the same rules to the same services.

Linked to this matter is the question of whether we should fully harmonise rules at EU level or rather maintain minimum harmonisation. In addition to laying down good rules, we should ensure their consistent application in our Digital Sinlge Market. This calls for enhancing the governance structure at EU level.

 

Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD)

Technological and market innovation also has a remarkable impact on the audiovisual media sector.

Audiovisual makes almost 70% of the whole internet traffic. In 2013 European consumers spent over 1 billion euros on digital videos. This is an increase of 73% compared with 2012 and of over 200% compared with 2011.

Our decision to assess the AVMSD – in the context the regulatory fitness exercise – is largely the result of these developments.   

Convergence of media and content is now an established reality. We want our legislation to be fit for this reality.

My objectives are clear: enable business to innovate, make sure the user has a fulfilling experience and an appropriate level of protection, while keeping in mind the key concepts of the Directive: the internal market, the promotion of cultural diversity, as well as media freedom and pluralism.

Last year we held a public consultation on the AVMSD. We observed that the scope of application of the rules deserves all our attention. Improving the functioning of the country of origin principle and ensuring the independence of national regulators are also important areas to look at.

In line with the DSM rationale, we are considering how to best adapt the rules to a changing digital environment, while striving to minimise administrative burden and simplify the law. Some issues we are looking at:

More and more users including minors watch videos online, alongside TV. Videos posted on social media and video sharing platforms are a major part of the online experience of youngsters.  However minors are not protected in an equal manner when watching content on TV or on the internet. We should ask ourselves then how broad should the protection of vulnerable users be. While platforms do take seriously the protection of users, there is no silver bullet and it is not easy to strike a balance between preserving the open Internet and free speech at protecting minors.

The market for video-on-demand is growing but some AVMSD rules applying to these services (e.g. on protection of minors, advertising, promotion of EU works) are lighter than those applying to TV. The question that arises is whether we should adapt the current rules to avoid distortions of competition.

Lastly, the independence of audiovisual regulators is crucial when it comes to preserving free and independent media. There are challenges to media freedom and pluralism in the Member States. Recently, for example, the new Polish media law raises a number of concerns. This   is why the Commission is now assessing the situation under the Rule of Law framework, working in cooperation with the Polish authorities.

to assess the situation.  The evaluation and review of the Directive is looking into this aspect as well. 

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have crucial decisions ahead. I encourage you to proactively take part to the policy debate that will shape up the telecoms and AVMSD reforms. This will prepare the ground for a solid and smooth review of the regulatory framework.

 

Thanks for your attention.