EC digital action plan

On May 19th, The European Commission will adopt a ten-year 'digital agenda’ aimed at unleashing the economic potential of its information and communication technologies (ICT) sector. The agenda, which has mainly been drawn up by Neelie Kroes, the European commissioner for the digital agenda, will cover investment, the removal of regulatory barriers, and legislation to improve consumer confidence in online shopping.

The draft of the paper describes the EU’s online single market as “seriously incomplete”. It outlines legislative plans to improve “the governance and transparency” of online copyright management by 2011, and to introduce “pan-European licences” for online use of creative content.

The Commission envisages an EU-wide “online dispute resolution system”, EU “trust marks” for internet retailers, and revised legislation on e-signatures to give consumers more confidence to shop on websites based in other member states. There are also plans for increasing research and development spending on ICT, developing e-health applications, and tackling cybercrime.

The Commission warns in the paper that Europe is “lagging behind” in rolling out next generation broadband (that is, in replacing copper networks with fibre). It plans to “reinforce” funding for high-speed broadband from the EU budget, including through “credit enhancement” schemes linked to the European Investment Bank. The Commission will also issue a recommendation (expected in June) clarifying the financial conditions that telecoms companies can impose on rival firms that want to share their networks. Operators have long complained that a lack of clarity in this area has prevented them from installing fibre networks.

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