We are now approaching the mid-point of the digital agenda. It’s a chance to take all the knowledge and experience gathered in the last 3 years – and use it, focus it on what must be delivered. A chance to push our priorities to make the most of tomorrow’s opportunities.
Implementing that agenda could be worth 4 million jobs: we can’t turn our backs on that.
When we reviewed the digital agenda at the end of last year, it was clearer than ever to me where the priorities should lie. The overall strategy is the right one: but broadband needs to be at its heart. It’s digital oxygen: economic oxygen.
Because every day people discover the value of new digital innovations. The digital miracles that transform people’s lives, and boost businesses’ bottom line.
And that’s why 2013 will be the year of broadband. Because all those new services are built on that bedrock.
I’m in a fighting mood, and Europe can’t wait. If the last three years have shown me anything, it’s that broadband is essential to our future. That’s not something I can let go of. We must deliver that investment.
That’s not easy, and the EU can’t do it alone. Broadband may be a miracle, but there’s no magic wand.
But we can make it easier, using our Single Market. By smashing barriers, thinking big and helping companies to build their business case.
Quite simply: the more consistent the rules, the fewer the obstacles. The more consistent the environment, the wider your ambition can spread. In fact completing the telecoms single market could give us a boost of €110 billion a year.
If you’re looking to invest, you face many barriers: time-consuming planning rules; divergent network access prices and products; unavailable spectrum, or whatever. The solutions need to be just as varied. We need a strategic vision, and a programme of pragmatic actions: detailed, technical, thought-through.
But the benefits are clear. Remember that €110 billion jackpot: and let’s be in the game.
First, let’s remember where we are. At the end of 2011, 95.7% of EU households are in areas covered by “basic” broadband and 50% have coverage at 30 Megabits a second or faster.
That’s a promising start to build on. But still, that means too many Europeans going without.
In the coming months, and beyond, I plan a package of ten steps to make the European telecoms market more integrated, coherent, and efficient. Giving digital Europe its broadband boost.
First, for fixed broadband, stimulating that investment needs the right regulatory framework. Last July I set out just that: a package both flexible and balanced. With copper access, on average, staying stable – which evidence shows is the right approach. With stricter rules against discrimination, so all in the market get a level playing field. And, where the right competition safeguards are in place, there will be the flexibility to experiment with NGA prices: a must, given uncertain demand. Markets have responded positively, rules guaranteed until at least 2020 provide the stability for long-term planning and investments are already beginning to flow. We are still consulting BEREC on the detailed draft recommendation, and will soon be consulting Member States too. I look forward to their reaction and hope the final recommendation will be ready in July.
Of course, broadband is about wireless too and wireless needs spectrum. Once, Europe led the world in wireless communication: now we have fallen behind. Europe needs to regain that lead. I want it, we all want it. But our networks face enormous, exponential pressure.
So we will continue to implement the radio spectrum policy programme. Agreeing this programme was an important achievement, towards a more coherent, EU approach to spectrum. But now we have to deliver it. Like with a spectrum inventory, to improve the efficiency of spectrum uses and better satisfy future demand. Like ensuring 1200 Megahertz of spectrum for wireless broadband. Where Member States fail to authorise that spectrum, we will use our full Treaty powers. And, last autumn, we set out a way forward on the shared use of spectrum; because we need to get creative and flexible to make the best, most efficient use out of a limited resource.
And here’s a further step we’ll be taking, in line with that programme: our wireless action plan, due in early Spring. Here to read more.