Neelie KROES
Vice-President of the European Commission

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A single market in ICT: what the European Council means for you

The conclusions of yesterday evening's European Council contain a very significant message for the Digital Agenda. It asks for work to be prioritised in a few areas essential to growth and competitiveness—in particular information and communication services (ICT):

the European Council notes the Commission's intention to report well before October on the state of play and the remaining obstacles to be tackled so as to ensure the completion of a fully functioning Digital Single Market by 2015, as well as concrete measures to establish the single market in Information and Communications Technology as early as possible.

For anyone who uses digital communications – from mobile phones to the internet – this is important and welcome news. And I would guess that's everyone reading this blog. The EU has spent the past few decades liberalising and improving the EU's telecoms market. That has brought more competition, lower call and broadband prices, and significant new consumer rights. Gone are the days when your "choice" was restricted to confirming you would use the single, national phone company. And we are working hard to prove that sustainable competition and investment in high-speed networks can go hand in hand. Unfortunately, the EU is still essentially a collection of 27 distinct national telecoms markets. And that fragmentation has consequences. It means that customer choice, for both consumers and business users, is limited to what happens to be on offer locally – and that can vary a lot, due to factors such as diverging regulation or the patchwork of uncoordinated past spectrum assignments for wireless operators. For businesses like telecoms operators, including those present in multiple countries, it means they don't get the advantages of organising their operations to serve an EU-wide market, and can't reach the size and scale needed to invest, innovate and compete globally. Already I know that many of these are nagging issues for many Europeans. Too often, it's the digital device in your pocket that constantly (and artificially) reminds you of national borders that are supposed to have disappeared. In tomorrow's world of machine-to-machine communications—connected cars, mobile payments, and the Internet of Things—this could be even more of an issue. Solving these problems takes ambition: but the potential reward is significant. Fully completing the EU's single market in digital communications could boost our economy by up to €110 billion a year; over 0.8% of GDP. That's too good an opportunity to miss. So, in response to the European Council's request, I will present a package of measures for endorsement by their October meeting. I look forward to working with Member States, the European Parliament, the digital industry and consumers over the next few months to prepare that. This has the potential to make people's lives easier, make our businesses more productive, and ensure a globally competitive European telecoms sector. At a time when our economy really needs a boost, it's great to see European leaders recognising the potential of EU action.
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Chris Conder's picture

There is still a lot of work to do to get connectivity to many areas where there is no competition or pressure on incumbents to provide a service. Until connectivity is ubiquitous the digital economy can't work. Its easy to remain a luddite on dial up. The EU needs to stimulate investment in altnets. To provide competition. To get market forces to work instead of helping telcos leech the remaining dregs of income from their obsolet copper assets. That is what is stopping us realising our dreams.
Manny's picture

I was promised open standards policies by Commissioner Erkki Liikanen. The EU didn't deliver and still foreign lobbyists meddle with our professional terminology and got us patent encumbered standards, RAND licenses. Everything against the spirit of the web. The most important thing is regaining digital sovereignty for Europe. Otherwise it will happen like with the current Data Protection laws revealed by Lobbyplag, that US law firms write amendments for our democratic representatives who do not defend the rights of their people but the lobby message from non-European multinationals. The phrase "stakeholder" should be banned in the EU, because it means illoyality of the staff officials to the peoples of Europe and pandering to (commercial) interest groups instead. I think fragmentation is a very very good thing because it ensures control of the peoples of Europe over their business players while pan-European or worldwide multinationals would simply dwarf the people and their political representation, and ultimately damage democracy. Just look how respectless XXL-companies like google and microsoft communicate with our authorities and ignore the rules. Fragmentions and friction creates diversity and jobs. Defragmentation and institutional merger kills creativity, competition and jobs. Europe is about this structural diversity and the people, not a corporatist elite dream of gigantic markets.
marosy's picture

Dear Neelie, Come on, what happened with you and your anti-Eastern European agenda? Now it is the time for another hate speech against the Hungarians. Actually the single market means slavery and colonization for me and for some Eastern Europeans. These Eastern countries are not on the same development levels as those from the West. You know the rest. EU will end like the Soviet Union. Get real.
Jan Andersen's picture

As an inventor with several patents pending and filed, I see that EU is behind and not competitive when it comes to protection of IP rights. Move to EU and not Silicon Valley ? Well having my base in EU, every time I file a patent I which my company was based in Silicon Valley and not in EU. Filing a PCT application in Europe, and your patent application will not be searched, you are forced to pay 1.850 euro for a search fee, but they wont do it, or its sloppy and useless. EU is doeing every think they can to become less competitive, inventors are left behind, unless you as an invetor as Microsoft and have the ressources to use specialits to write the patent applications, which gets respect at the searching authority and they do the jopb -your ideas and knowledge cannot be protected. Based in EU, you cant deliver in a PCT application in US, which would have been processed professionally, and which could the be used to apply for patent in US and other countriers. Applying in EU, you are behind with no proper processing of your INTERNATIONAL application, the later national stages are up-hill all the way, having to make this process with every and each country in the later national phase, having to fight with a negative comment from the European search authority - "this can not be patented", even its fully patentable.      
Jan Andersen's picture

EU PCT applications, additional comment:   The PCT search authorities are present in each member state, but they are in reality, most of the, just an empty organisation.   Its time to clean-up in the European PCT sphere, which could be done in parallel with the new EU-patent office. Merge all PCT into one central office, instead of spreading the search ressources over 30 tiny offices - please.   Already now - please - make it possible to pre-apply for the new EU-patent and PCT. Today, we have to apply at the very expensive and close to useless WIPO/EPO .    
Jimmy's picture

"Unfortunately, the EU is still essentially a collection of 27 distinct national telecoms markets." I think that statement is not fair with the telecom market. In fact, the European telecom market is quite homogeneous if you compare it with the other fundamental aspects of our daily lives: for instance, there are huge differences among the tax systems in Europe (compare Luxembourg with France) or in public health coverage, or in the usage of nuclear energy, or in the burdens to create a new company, or in the minimum wage, or in the retirement age and so on. The thing is that there are more than 1.000 people working in DG COM and you suffer from what Warren Buffett called “the Institutional imperative”:  you have to do something, wether it is really necessary or not is secondary!  
Jos Marten's picture

Good posts , Commissioner .  Your work is very important, but posts like Manny above are very correct .  Facebook and Google+ are demanding private phone numbers and all kinds of data to post, and specially after anyone starts  to defend the EU and the Euro  - from the USA  -  in Facebook they go crazy against the writer of the posts defending the EU , demanding more private data, and now in G+ , too ! They are demanding  phone and private data to go on ! Maybe it's time to have a full EU social network without private data demands , like this site but for all issues , after all, you don't block anyone with private data demands, so why Facebook and now G+ are ? who are they ? Thanks for this open site. Keep the good work with Wi - Fi everywhere in the EU and the Lobby's very far away.
Oscar's picture

The commissioner is one of my favourites working towards a stronger and better Europe. In this particular role she fully understands how to deal with companies as facebook and google and manage to oversee the growth of digitalisation in te union.
Andrew's picture

I would make 2 comments: 1. The telecoms market is still nationally focused, it is not possible to from where I live and travel 10 K and satisfactorily use my phone because I have gone from France to Germany & phone cost etc goes up. 2. The dream of the internet was that it would make purchasing goods & comparing prices on a European level possible, driving down cost for the consumer. Apart from some international companies like Amazon it is not possible to buy things in one country from a retailer in another. It is even more barmy with books, I can buy a physical book in France from one UK retailer but not an eBook!
Michael's picture

It might be a good idea to stress that this new single market, this €110 billion is very close to the projected gains of €120 billion from the TTIP!

I agree that there should be a single telecom market and that this would bring huge benefits to Europe, however I would like to point out that the main driver for telecom service price and quality, aren’t much related at the market size as it is for regulations. Watch US for instance, it could be considered as on of the biggest single telecom market but still offer higher prices then many European when in come to mobile telecom price. Having a look at OECD telecommunication price baskets reports http://www.oecd.org/sti/broadband/oecdtelecommunicationpricebaskets.htm we realize that telecom services’ price if far from been related to the market size. Considering the strong lobby presence of telecom operators in Brussels, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a single telecom market developing in Europe with poor regulations that wouldn’t benefits its citizen as much as it benefits telecom operators. For that reason I think that single telecom market is important but, even more important is to have strong and well designed regulations (e.g. enforcing network sharing and/or co-opetition practices that must be translated in better service quality and price to the end customer).   To do so, research should be done in order to define the state of art telecom regulations, to then be defined as directives to national government prior to developing a pan-European telecom market. If a pan-European telecom market is done prior to this, chances are that telecom operators lobby will be even more strong that what they are today, influencing regulations that won’t benefit the final customer and will eat all the potential benefits that a single telecom market could bring to Europe.

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