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Future networks and the internet

This Communication was issued in preparation for the internet of the future. It examines the framework conditions for keeping the internet dynamic, competitive and secure and reviews the main challenges ahead in a European context and outlines possible EU policy responses. This Communication also outlines a Broadband Performance Index to monitor the switchover to high-speed internet.

ACT

Communication from the Commission of 29 September 2008: Future networks and the internet [COM(2008) 594 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

The internet is constantly evolving. Not only will it become much faster due to the development of very high speed broadband networks, it will also become much more pervasive and available anytime, anywhere. This Communication can be seen as a preparatory step towards this internet of the future.

Emerging trends will challenge the digital economy

The widespread use of broadband has changed the way people use the internet. While it merely provided information in the mid-1990s, the new ‘Web 2.0’ is increasingly participative and interactive due to fundamental advances in user-friendly services.

It is possible to discern four main trends:

  • There will be an evolution of social business networking which will also generate collaboration tools for businesses, Enterprise 2.0. Together with the development of software as a service, this will result in a new generation of computer services easily available on demand and with much reduced overheads, known as the Internet of Services;
  • There will be the emergence of the Internet of Things, which is the seamless connection of devices, sensors, objects, etc. through fixed and wireless networks;
  • Nomadic use through portable devices will transform work organisation patterns;
  • An increase in bandwidth will be required due to the massive projected increase of data traffic.

Challenges and responses

Competitive pressure constitutes the most effective means to encourage the migration to broadband. However, it will be crucial to keep the internet open and e-communications markets competitive. Stimulating investment in high-speed broadband access will be necessary due to the challenges of high investment costs of the necessary civil engineering works, which represent up to 80% of the total costs, and the uncertainty as to whether consumers are willing to pay a sufficient amount for the broadband services for these investments to be profitable.

It will become a policy priority to provide Broadband for all at an affordable price bothin rural and in urban areas. In this line, the Commission proposed a ‘Broadband Performance Index’ in its Annual Progress Report on the Lisbon Strategy. The index is a composite indicator which reflects the need for speed, coverage, affordable prices, innovation, high-quality services and a favourable socio-economic context.

There is also the issue of competition and convergence. Whereas convergence is blurring the market boundaries between telecoms, consumer electronics, media services and internet companies, it is important to ensure that the internet remains open to competition and innovation. It is important that consumers have real choices and do not get locked to services and products.

The existing internet architecture is insufficient to deal with the challenges arising from nomadic computing and the Internet of Things. It is therefore necessary to launch a debate on the design and development of the internet of the future, as it must meet the rising demands of scalability, mobility, flexibility, security, trust and robustness.

It is fundamental to preserve the Privacy and security of the internet of the future at an early stage. To this end, the Commission will provide clear guidelines on the implementation of existing rules on data protection and a coherent strategy for a secure internet of the future.

In all these developments, the crucial role played by international policy, regulatory dialogue and research cooperation should be taken into account. To this end, the Commission is expected to adopt a Communication on the external dimension of information society policies in late 2008.

Background

The aim of promoting access for all to a good-quality internet connection at an affordable price was introduced by the EU policy to ‘Bridge the Broadband Gap’. As part of this policy, the Commission will update and summarise the state-aid rules applicable to broadband projects and launch a debate on the role of Universal Service in providing broadband for all in autumn 2008.

This Communication falls within the context of the Lisbon Agenda post-2010. The internet of the future is a valuable source of economic growth for the EU and it is therefore important that this growth is encouraged by a sound regulatory framework.

Last updated: 11.12.2008

See also

Additional information on the European Commission’s Information Society in Europe website.

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