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MEMO/09/65

Brussels, 16 February 2009

Telecoms Ministerial in Prague: "Next Steps in EU Telecoms"

The 27 EU Telecoms Ministers will meet in Prague on 17 February 2009 following an invitation from the Czech EU Presidency. They will discuss issues related to the telecoms sector, crucial for the future development of a European knowledge economy. The main topics are expected to be the role of information and communication technologies (ICT) and of a single market without regulatory borders in responding to the economic crisis. The European Commission aims to achieve high-speed internet coverage for all citizens by 2010 as part of the European Economic Recovery Plan and has proposed to earmark € 1 billion to support broadband infrastructure investments. The Commission will be represented at the Ministerial Conference by Viviane Reding, EU Telecoms Commissioner.

"Europe's best response to the financial and economic crisis is coordinated action to create a pro-competitive single market without regulatory borders which is open for business and consumers. I therefore welcome this invitation from the Czech Presidency, under its well-chosen motto of a Europe without barriers, for all Telecoms Ministers to meet in Prague to make progress on the Telecoms Package. What Europe needs at this moment is swift coordinated action and a reinforcement of the competition principles on which Europe's single market is based. What Europe needs at this moment are high-speed internet networks for all Europeans, whether based on fibre or wireless technologies, which are open to competitors and stimulate economic growth. What Europe needs at this moment are independent referees both at national and at EU level, as well as swift, focused and transparent regulatory decisions. What Europe certainly does not need is a new wave of protectionism or a return to old monopolies. I hope that in Prague, Ministers will confirm their commitment to achieving broadband for all Europeans by 2010; and on opening the final phase of negotiations with the European Parliament on the Telecoms Package. Europe's economy and Europe's citizens are waiting for results."

Viviane Reding, EU Telecoms Commissioner

What is expected at this Telecoms Ministerial?

Ministers are expected to discuss the contribution of ICT and broadband to Europe's economic recovery (MEMO/09/35, IP/08/1771, MEMO/08/735), how to encourage investment in telecoms and the right regulatory environment for innovation, in particular in balancing coordination, harmonisation and conditions in different countries across the Single Market.

The role of ICT and broadband in the economic crisis

ICT will play a key role in accelerating the European economic recovery. Direct investment in can ICT maintain jobs and it can also make the European economy more competitive. It already contributes to GDP growth by 25% and for half of productivity gains in the last decade. The Commission has proposed a European Economic Recovery Plan to stimulate the European economy by directing €1 billion in underserved areas to achieve broadband for all by 2010 and upgrade existing broadband infrastructure where the existing quality does not support new services.

Access to high speed broadband internet unlocks the paths to finding new jobs, learning new skills, identifying new markets and cutting costs. It is essential to businesses and to public services like schools, hospitals and government offices in a modern economy.

A recent study shows that broadband development will help create around one million jobs in Europe and growth of economic activity by € 850 billion between 2006 and 2015.

Background:

On 28 January 2009, the Commission proposed to earmark €1billion of Community funds for broadband investments under the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (MEMO/09/35). The proposal requires the approval of Council. The Commission calls on the Council to adopt these proposals as soon as possible so that money can already be committed in 2009.

A Single European Telecoms Market

Ministers will discuss a number of issues to feed into the second reading negotiations between the European Parliament, Council and Commission.

  • Radio spectrum: More effective and coordinated management of this highly valuable resource will boost the European economy. It will also support the European Commission's goal of achieving 'broadband for all' through innovative and wireless communications across the EU. See the Joint Statement of 19 November 2008 by EU Telecoms Commissioner Reding and Dániel Pataki, Chairman of the European Regulators Group and newly elected Chairman of the Radio Spectrum Policy Group (MEMO/08/725).
  • Pro-competitive consistency in the application of EU telecoms rules: A single market of 500 million consumers opens new opportunities for telecoms operators, as long as there is effective competition, and consistent and clear rules that take national conditions into account. Clear rules benefit investors and competitors in the single market and stimulate further investment in ultra high-speed internet networks. The different models for upgrading the existing European Regulators Group (ERG) to a more efficient body with a mandate for cross border regulatory issues will be part of the discussion as well as the question of how to enhance consistency of remedies imposed by national telecoms regulators, as the present EU Telecoms rules can lead to undesirable situations where competitors from other EU Member States are excluded from access to networks in a neighbouring country (IP/08/2060).
  • Universal service: The increased importance of broadband in our daily lives raises policy questions about the universality of access for the future. The main question is whether universal service, a telecoms safety net requiring Member States to ensure that a defined set of minimum services is made available to all users at an affordable price, is an appropriate tool at EU level to advance broadband development. Under current EU telecoms rules, universal service does not include broadband internet access, but a political discussion has started in a number of Member States on a more flexible approach (IP/08/1397 and MEMO/08/583). Viviane Reding, EU Telecoms Commissioner, said on this: "It is this Commission's policy objective to achieve broadband Internet for all Europeans by 2010."

Background:

The current EU telecoms rules (last updated in 2002) effectively opened up markets, but have not yet remedied regulatory inconsistencies and competition bottlenecks (such as access to ultra fast internet networks, or the wholesale termination rates that operators charge each other for connecting their customers). In November 2007, the Commission proposed to reform the EU telecoms rules to guarantee greater consistency in the European telecoms market and enable EU citizens to benefit from better, cheaper and more secure communication services (IP/07/1677; IP/07/1678). The European Parliament voted, in first reading, on the entire reform package in its plenary session on 24 September 2008 (MEMO/08/581). The Commission adopted amended proposals on 6 November 2008 (IP/08/1661).

The Council voted a common position on the telecoms package today, on the basis of the first political agreement found by the Council on 27 November 2008 (MEMO/08/744).

The next step is a vote on the Telecoms package in second reading in the plenary of the European Parliament (expected for April), while informal "trilogue meetings" between Parliament, Commission and Council are ongoing.
Further information:
Commissioner Reding's speech of 25 October 2008 on telecoms regulation in times of economic crisis (SPEECH/08/561)

Broadband coverage[1] of population by urbanity, December 2007 (EU27, NO, IS)

2007
 
Urban
Suburban
Rural
Total
AT
100%
99%
81%
92%
BE
100%
100%
100%
100%
BG
n.a.
n.a.
0%
n.a.
CY
100%
40%
0%
80%
CZ
98%
85%
75%
85%
DK
100%
100%
100%
100%
EE
90%
0%
73%
85%
FI
99%
98%
91%
96%
FR
99%
99%
97%
99%
DE
99%
95%
88%
96%
GR
100%
85%
50%
86%
HU
98%
94%
80%
91%
IS
100%
0%
79%
92%
IE
100%
99%
73%
89%
IT
100%
91%
82%
94%
LV
98%
80%
65%
87%
LT
99%
97%
68%
88%
LU
100%
100%
100%
100%
MT
99%
Not relevant
Not relevant
99%
NL
99%
99%
99%
99%
NO
98%
96%
94%
96%
PL
86%
45%
43%
64%
PT
99%
96%
86%
95%
RO
n.a.
n.a.
0%
n.a.
SK
94%
84%
39%
74%
SI
99%
95%
86%
92%
ES
93%
90%
88%
91%
SE
99%
99%
90%
98%
UK
100%
100%
96%
100%
EU 25+2
98%
92%
80%
93%
EU 27+2
n.a.
n.a.
70%
n.a.

Data source: IDATE Study “Broadband Coverage in Europe 2008”

Data for urban, suburban areas and for the national average in Bulgaria and Romania are not available. Rural coverage in these countries is 0 and this allows the calculation of rural coverage for EU27 + 2.

[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]

DK penetration has been corrected after deadline for submission of data. Actual DK penetration is lower and stands at 37.2%.

[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]


[1] “Broadband Coverage” refers to the coverage of DSL networks, the most widespread form of broadband access in Europe, and in particular to the percentage of population depending on a Local Exchange equipped with a DSLAM. Thus, coverage also includes those people (Households or Businesses Units) that reside too far from these switches to be able to purchase a DSL connection even if they wanted to do so. Hence, coverage figures overestimate actual availability.


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