--- Posted by Robert Madelin, DG INFSO Director-General
I had a good discussion at the IIC Telecommunications & Media Forum, yesterday, the 13th of April. I was sharing with the participants my views of the Digital Single Market, one of the founding pillars of the Digital Agenda for Europe. My main points were that this is the key to European competitiveness especially during this historical economic downturn. Even in these times, the digital economy is growing faster than any other sector, and this should be the space where business innovators should find the ideal ground to develop their ideas and to create new wealth.
When Europeans think of the obstacles to the Digital Single Market they often think of the most obvious frustrations suffered by themselves as consumers, when they are denied to purchase goods in another Member States because their credit card is not accepted, or when they try to watch IP-TV abroad. Video on Demand (VOD) on the internet is simply not available in certain Member States and the offer is restricted in most of the others. Because of the lack of a Single Market in digital music, certain providers just decide not to offer their services in certain countries and thus de-facto to discriminate consumers because of their country of residence. This is something I and my colleagues are confronted to daily, through citizens messages and complaints.
This is why the DAE lays out a clear set of actions aimed at paving the way to the creation of fertile grounds for innovative digital services in Europe. Most of these actions concern the creation of new legislative instruments which will be complemented by other key initiatives aimed at improving the integration of the European economy. The Commission has adopted yesterday the second phase of the Single Market Act, which will prioritise the EU initiatives that will have a stronger impact on our economy.
But, as Vice-President Kroes has often repeated, focusing on the digital economy does not mean working only on seamless provision of digital content. It means also creating the incentives to the development of network infrastructures and on consumer - or user - trust and confidence. In this context, a constructive economic relationship between media and telecommunications is key to the sustainable development of the digital economy. For instance, we all know that the provision of enhanced content services in HD and 3D formats requires network infrastructures and management practices that live up to user expectations. As content enhancements will likely require greater transmission pipes, channel capacity becomes pivotal to framing the audiovisual future. The principle of technology neutrality implies that all platforms should be given a chance to benefit from the delivery of new services.
In order to keep up to user expectations, it is essential to "broaden the band". Some Member States are more advanced than others on this, but all together EU Member States must meet the broadband target set by the DAE. That is basic broadband coverage for the 100% of EU citizens by 2013 and, by 2020, 30 Mbps broadband for all and 100 Mbps for at least 50% of European households. A balanced regulatory approach with regard to broadband and very high speed broadband is crucial to attaining the ambitious broadband targets of the Digital Agenda.
But the future is mobile and this is why spectrum policy plays a central role in ensuring that wireless access solutions can contribute effectively to the ambitious broadband targets of the Digital Agenda, especially by helping improving service coverage in less densely populated areas. EU policy in that field is now driven by the Commission's proposal for a Radio Spectrum Policy Programme (RSPP). We hope that this will pave the way to the effective provision of accelerated access to harmonised spectrum for wireless broadband deployment throughout the single market.
The third front addressed by the DAE for the creation of a thriving Digital Single Market is perhaps the more ambitious: gaining users and consumers' trust. In order to gain this trust the Commission is working, as you know, on an updated framework for data protection which will have to respond to a very difficult challenge: strike the right balance between the need of citizen to control their data and the call of economic operators for less burdensome rules.
This will come at the time when the e-Commerce directive is being evaluated and alternative dispute resolution systems adapted to the digital economy are being studied. All this work will have to keep in mind the needs of the cloud. Vice-President Kroes and I are committed to work to enable the emergence of competitive cloud services in Europe and we are defining a strategy to achieve this goal taking into account the global dimension of these services.
In the end, I seize the opportunity to remind my blog readers of the Digital Agenda Assembly, as it is the most important event for my Directorate-General. None of this will be possible without the active participation of all the actors concerned and you are among them. Within the governance structure of the DAE, I also invited all participants to the IIC Telecommunications & Media Forum to the next Digital Agenda Assembly that will take place on the 16th and 17th of June. The DAA will help us in measuring the progress achieved so far and to work in a structured manner on existing and new ideas aimed at reaching our common goals. These ideas will constitute an important input for the mid-term review of the DAE.