What is the problem? Outdated networks are slowing Europe down
Today, internet access in the EU is mainly based on first generation broadband. Most people connect to the cyberspace over telephone copper and TV cable networks, both of which offer only limited speeds.
Europe is lagging behind other parts of the world (USA, Japan, Korea) where heavy investments are made to foster the deployment of Next Generation networks that enable to access high-speed internet.
Why is EU action required? To offer the best to its citizens and businesses
Europeans should have the chance to use services on networks that are equal to or better than those available in other countries. Measures to achieve this include:
Non-discrimination and cost-orientation
- The need for Commission guidance on the subjects has been highlighted by the significant differences in the application of non-discrimination and costing remedies across Member States. Such differences are likely to lead to the following problems:
- a lack of clarity/consistency surrounding the scope/content of the obligations can render regulation at a national level ineffective;
- a too lenient approach towards implementing obligations is not conducive to addressing the competitive concerns identified in the relevant markets; and
- significant differences in regulatory approaches across the EU have a negative impact on the internal market as such differences jeopardise investments and hamper both market integration and the development of pan-European operators.
- Several measures to facilitate broadband roll-out are being adopted in Member States, yet they remain rather scarce and scattered (with different scope and obligations, deployed on a regional or even local basis).
- In the absence of a coordinated approach to reducing costs and streamlining procedures, the strategic objective of achieving an inexpensive, world-class infrastructure for high-speed internet can hardly be achieved.
- A patchwork approach vis-à-vis the different operators involved in civil engineering works (telecom and non-telecom players) might have an impact on their competitiveness and on their capacity and willingness to invest, especially cross border.
- A coordinated approach at EU level by contrast would also ensure equal treatment of all operators seeking access to existing or future infrastructure that might be used for electronic communications networks.
- Without harmonisation measures at EU level the increasing risk of national patchwork approaches could jeopardize the objective of the internal market for future electronic communications networks and services, as well as the policy goal to bring "every European digital".
What are the Commission's plans?
The Digital Agenda review proposes a package of regulatory measures on non-discrimination and wholesale pricing to promote investments in high-speed networks and strengthen competition across all networks.
On non-discrimination and cost-orientation:
- In July 2012 Vice-President Kroes announced a new policy package to create the legal predictability that investors are asking for against the current overall economic situation in Europe and the substantial roll-out costs of high speed internet.
- Adoption of the Recommendation is foreseen for July 2013, after consultation with COCOM. Following adoption, the Commission will monitor the implementation of the Recommendation in the different Member States through the Article 7 notification procedure where national regulators submit their draft measures to the Commission for scrutiny.
On cost cutting
- Answering the call of the 2012 Spring Council for actions at EU level to achieve costs savings in the deployment of high-speed broadband networks as part of the efforts to complete the Digital Single Market by 2015, on 27 March 2013 the college adopted a proposal of a regulation concerning measures to reduce the costs of deploying high speed electronic communications networks.
- Review of the recommendation of relevant markets is foreseen for the second half of 2013
- The Commission launched public consultations on broadband state aid in April 2011 and June 2012, before adopting new Broadband State aid Guidelines in December 2012. These changes focus on technological neutrality, Ultra-fast broadband networks, Step change (aid only for substantial improvements over existing networks), Reinforcement of open access and transparency.
Going forward the Commission will implement the new guidelines in order to support broadband deployment where market failures exist without distorting competition and discouraging private investment.