Brussels, 2 December 2010
Digital Agenda: Kroes to urge EU Telecoms Council to agree rapidly on harmonised use of radio spectrum
European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes will urge the EU's Council of Telecoms Ministers in Brussels on 3rd December (starting at 15.00) to boost Internet access in Europe by agreeing to the Commission's September proposal to make spectrum available for wireless broadband by 2013. Wireless broadband is essential to meet the commitments made in the Digital Agenda for Europe to give every European access to basic broadband by 2013 and fast and ultra-fast broadband by 2020 (see IP/10/581, MEMO/10/199 and MEMO/10/200). Vice-President Kroes will also brief Ministers on a forthcoming public consultation on the Roaming Regulation and encourage the rapid adoption of the Commission's proposal to expand and modernise the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA). In addition she will underline the importance of implementing the Broadband Strategy presented by the Commission in September and urge Member States to support the first European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing.
Radio Spectrum Policy Programme
Vice-President Neelie Kroes will call on the Telecoms Council to make further rapid progress on the Commission's proposal for a Radio Spectrum Policy Programme (RSPP - see MEMO/10/425). Kroes will ask Ministers not to shy away from difficult decisions, and to instead show the political will to move away from a "business as usual approach" to ambitious spectrum management. The Council debate will be public (available on http://video.consilium.europa.eu/).
The RSPP will promote efficient radio spectrum management and, in particular, ensure that sufficient spectrum is made available by 2013 for wireless broadband. RSPP will make a significant contribution to bringing fast broadband connections to people in remote areas and making innovative services available across Europe. In particular the RSPP calls on EU countries to make available by 2013 the 800 MHz band resulting from the switch from analogue to digital television broadcasting (the so-called 'digital dividend') to cope with the mounting scarcity of spectrum available for broadband and technological innovation.
The Commission is convinced that its proposal to fix 2013 as the target date is necessary and realistic, and will encourage those Member States that have had difficulties in making progress so far and are working hard to overcome those difficulties to meet this deadline. Individual extensions until 2015 could be made possible if absolutely necessary.
The radio spectrum proposal, together with a Broadband Communication and NGA Recommendation, is part of a package presented by the Commission in September 2010 to deliver fast and ultra-fast broadband in Europe (IP/10/1142), one of the key targets of the Digital Agenda for Europe.
Vice-President Kroes will announce to Ministers over lunch that she will soon launch a wide-ranging public consultation on roaming, which will feed into the review of the effectiveness of the current Regulation due before the end of June 2011. Kroes will outline her preliminary thoughts on the lack of competition, long term market and technology developments and question whether a retail data roaming regulation is needed. In particular, she will underline that price regulation should always be a last resort and that it is essential to consider other options which could be used to create a competitive internal market for roaming.
Although consumers are benefiting from lower roaming charges (50% less for voice calls and 60% less for SMS) thanks to the roaming Regulation, there is still no true competition for roaming services. In addition, regulated reductions in the wholesale cost of data roaming have not yet been passed on to consumers.
A key objective of the Digital Agenda for Europe is to create a well functioning Single Market for telecoms services. The Commission wants the difference between national and roaming charges to approach zero by 2015.
European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA)
Vice-President Kroes will encourage the Council to reach swift agreement on the draft Regulation to strengthen and modernise the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA), before the expiry of the current ENISA mandate in March 2012. The Council debate will be public (available on http://video.consilium.europa.eu/).
The Commission presented its proposal to strengthen and modernise ENISA at the end of September 2010 (see IP/10/1239) to help EU Member States and private stakeholders develop their capabilities to prevent, detect and respond to cyber-security challenges.
Vice-President Kroes will also underline the importance of implementing the Broadband Strategy (see MEMO/10/427), on which Council is due to adopt conclusions. The Broadband Strategy, part of the Commission's September 2010 broadband package (IP/10/1142), outlined inter alia how best to encourage private and public investment in fast and ultra-fast broadband networks.
Research and innovation
Kroes will urge Member States to support the first European Innovation Partnership, on Active and Healthy Ageing (see IP/10/1069), due to be launched next year. The European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing is part of the EU's "Innovation Union" strategy, one of the Europe 2020 flagship initiatives, to turn ideas into jobs, green growth and social progress (IP/10/1288). Such partnerships aim to accelerate and scale up the market take up of practical solutions.
Kroes will also underline how the strategic use of public procurement for research and innovation to improve public services can create greater opportunities for European companies to take international leadership in new markets, as well as develop skills and make better use of public sector information.
The Council is due to adopt Conclusions on the links and common goals of the "Digital Agenda" and "Innovation Union" flagships in working together to boost growth and jobs in Europe.