EC Digital VP: Net neutrality concept has to be solid

European Commission Vice President Andrus Ansip, the politician responsibly for leading the Digital Single Market project team, has told the European Parliament that it needs to be decisive in moving towards a Telecoms Single Market, and warned that the net neutrality concept has to be solid and should be clearly defined.

Addressing a Plenary Session of the Parliament, Ansip agreed that the Digital Single Market required immediate attention. “For this, we need the Telecoms Single Market as a solid basis for the future,” he stated, recognising that the Parliament agreed with the ambitious plan to achieve a truly connected Digital Single Market, as could be seen in its resolution and support for the Telecoms Single Market package. “But I am worried about the direction that the Telecoms Single Market negotiations have taken in the Council, where Member States are divided,” he admitted.

“The Telecoms Single Market is an essential building block of the Digital Single Market. Without it, we cannot achieve the rest. The European Council asked for it in October 2013, and tomorrow, in the Telecoms Council, Member States need to be ambitious and take a decisive step towards achieving it. What kind of Digital Single Market would we build without decent solutions on roaming, net neutrality and, more importantly, on spectrum,” he pondered.

“The net neutrality concept has to be solid and should be clearly defined. And with spectrum, more cooperation in spectrum allocation is not a technical issue. It’s about getting high quality – and decently priced – connectivity, and new services,” he advised.

He said there was “even more work to do” to achieve a truly connected digital single market. “A market where every consumer is able to enjoy digital content and services – wherever they are in the EU, including government services. It means every company should be able to share and sell its wares to a market of 500 million, using seamless online channels,” he suggested.

One work area he highlighted relates to removing restrictions and preventing new ones from appearing. “One particular area to address will involve putting a stop to blocking of online consumers based on their location or residence. This will be about reforming and modernising copyright rules and getting rid of unjustified curbs on transfer and access to digital assets,” he stated. “Again, as I said during my hearing, I am committed to getting rid of geo-blocking. This goes against the core principles of Europe’s Single Market.”

He suggested that the benefits of a Digital Single Market were €260 billion a year, potentially more. “Imagine ending those barriers, making this a benefit to Europe, not the cost of non-Europe,” he said.

In closing remarks, he said the Single Market needed further to modernise consumer rules and copyright but it also needed to adapt for the technologies ready to come on the market in the near future – such as big data, cloud computing, the Internet of Things.

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