Neelie Kroes:incentives to invest in the future: creating an open, competitive telecoms market

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Ladies and gentlemen,

Good evening to you all; and thank you for inviting me to speak here.

We are at a time of unceasing uncertainty, soaring unemployment, sclerotic growth. We must solve the immediate problems of economic stability.

But that is not all. We must also ask ourselves: what kind of economy do we want for the future? And then we must go out there and build the foundations for that economy.

We cannot afford to wait. Here in Brussels, and across the EU, we must wake up to this hard economic reality.

The most forward-looking European industries need to know we will have infrastructure and tools for the decades to come. The most innovative European businesses need to know whether, in ten years’ time, Europe will still be a creative and competitive continent. European citizens need to know whether the next generation will have challenging and creative jobs.

All of them turn to public authorities and demand to know what we are going to do about it. And rightly so.

To me, it is clear that ICT is a big part of the answer. Increasing broadband penetration by 10 percentage points could increase growth by 0.9 to 1.5%. One point five percent: on its own that’s three times the total growth we predict for next year.

These figures are just too important to ignore. If we provide the right ingredients to let this technology catch on, then it could fuel the economy for decades to come, setting us free from our current economic stasis.

Getting every European Digital is an important project, with high stakes. So important, so high, that public authorities cannot be expected to step back and let it happen by chance.

But, at the same time, it is not public authorities, not the European Commission, who have the primary role to deliver this change. It is not us who dig up the roads to lay down new cables. It is not us who come up with the new attractive content that will make people demand to come online. And it is not us alone who will deliver all the investment we need.

We are at most an enabler, a catalyst. To deliver the digital agenda, we rely on our delivery partners: people like you. You can be more innovative, more effective, more hands-on than we could ever be.

So we must balance the need to act – with the need to let others act. Let me set out how we are striking that balance.

First, in some cases, it is public authorities who need to provide public goods: spectrum, for example. We have already achieved a success with our Radio Spectrum Policy Programme, which promotes a more efficient use of this valuable resource.

This gives us better and more creative tools to anticipate and meet rocketing demand. Just imagine the leap forward if public and commercial users could share spectrum on a large scale; another benefit of our programme. And now that the legal framework is clear and agreed, investments can flow in to aid a quick and easy transition to 4G. Here to read more.

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