Andrus Ansip, European Commission vice-president for the digital single market, boasted about an ambitious overhaul of telecoms rules, including more effective spectrum allocation, incentives for investment in high-speed broadband and ensuring a level playing field for all market players.
However, his announcement of proposals to promote a digital single market by the end of 2016 included no mention of roaming, the subject of sometimes fraught negotiation between the commission and member states in recent months.
Although bullish on his new proposals, Ansip (pictured) warned the strategy outlined today “is our starting point, not our finishing line”.
Of the 16 proposals, one dealt specifically with the telecoms industry. Others covered new rules to make cross-border e-commerce easier, an end to unjustified geo-blocking and new data protection rules.
The commission also pledged to identify competition concerns in Europe’s e-commerce markets. Indeed, it opened an antitrust inquiry into the e-commerce sector today.
The proposals follow months of tense negotiations between the commission, the European Parliament and EU member states. Ansip previously described the possibility of reaching agreement with member states on the digital single market as “an uphill struggle”.
In the Q&A session today, he was asked why he was pushing ahead with new proposals while existing initiatives such as roaming and net neutrality still remain on the table. “It’s absolutely clear, we have to go on. The cost of not doing so would be huge. That’s why. In fact, we have to hurry up,” he answered, in justification.
He was also quizzed about why member states would support the current proposals given past difficulties. “We have had remarkable impact from members. Their views are reflected in this strategy. This is their document. Hopefully we can move on much faster.”
The announcement from the commission made no specific mention about net neutrality either, although it did state its aim of “ensuring a level playing field for all market players, traditional and new”.
On roaming, Ansip previously called a compromise proposal from the member states “a joke” back in March.
Afke Schaart, vice president, GSMA Europe, welcomed the proposals as encouraging network investment in Europe. However, she urged haste: “At the same time, the commission urgently needs to press ahead with the telecom review, ideally this year. The GSMA is calling for clearer, investment-focused signals from the outset that indicate rapid action to bring about a fair and competitive EU telecom policy framework.”
She backed the addressing of regulatory imbalance and more coordinated spectrum allocation across the EU.