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Brussels, 26 May 2011
Digital Agenda: EU Telecoms Council, Brussels 27th May
Neelie Kroes, European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda, will urge the EU's Council of Telecoms Ministers meeting in Brussels on 27th May to boost internet access in Europe by working with the European Parliament to adopt legislation to make radio spectrum available for wireless broadband by 2013. In addition Vice-President Kroes will present the Net Neutrality Communication to the Council and will discuss with the Council how to achieve the Digital Agenda goals of ensuring basic broadband for all by 2013 together with a higher level of digital inclusion by 2015. The Council is expected to agree to the Commission's proposal to prolong the current mandate of the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) by 18 months, pending its consideration of a proposal to modernise and reinforce the Agency, and Vice-President Kroes will urge Member States to improve and strengthen their national cyber-security capabilities. Vice-President Kroes will also update Ministers over lunch on developments on roaming services in the EU.
Neelie Kroes will urge the Council to reach a rapid decision on the Commission's proposal for a Radio Spectrum Policy Programme (RSPP - see MEMO/10/425). Wireless broadband is an essential element for meeting 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).
The Commission's proposal for a Decision by the European Parliament and Council states that EU countries should complete by 2012 the process of giving licences to operators to use spectrum bands which have already been technically harmonised at EU level for the use of wireless broadband. In addition, EU countries are asked to open up the 800 MHz band (see IP/10/540) to wireless broadband by 1st January 2013, while foreseeing possible derogations in exceptional cases. The 800 MHz spectrum band is part of the "digital dividend", that is radio frequencies freed up by the move from analogue to digital television broadcasting.
Services which rely on radio spectrum represent 2% to 2.5 % of annual EU gross domestic product (DGP), i.e. more than €250 billion according to a study undertaken for the Commission. This includes the European wireless electronic communications industry which supports 3.5 million jobs, generates around €130 billion annually in tax revenues and contributes € 140 billion directly to European GDP.
The European Parliament adopted its position at first reading on the proposal on 1th May (see MEMO/11/290). The Commission hopes that the Council can achieve a political agreement in October and adoption of its position at first reading in December, which would enable the Parliament to finally adopt the RSPP in early 2012.
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.
Neelie Kroes will inform Ministers over lunch that the European Commission will shortly be coming forward with proposals to replace the current Roaming Regulation which expires in June 2012.
A key objective of the Digital Agenda for Europe is to create a well functioning Single Market for telecoms services with the difference between roaming and national tariffs approaching zero by 2015.
Neelie Kroes will present the Commission's March 2011 Communication on cyber security (see IP/11/395) and will call for a stronger commitment from Member States to improve and strengthen their national cyber-security capabilities. The Commission's Communication underlined that further action in the area of cyber security is required, notably to step up efforts at both EU and global level to address effectively all kind of cyber threats, be they attacks exploiting vulnerability of IT systems, deliberate disruptions or even attempts to destroy IT systems.
Vice-President Kroes will call for a stronger commitment from Member States to improve and strengthen their national cyber-security capabilities.
In particular, the Commission will continue to monitor the implementation of the following key goals by Member States:
The Council is due to agree to extend the current mandate of the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) by 18 months, Vice-President Kroes will encourage the Council to reach a swift agreement in the on-going discussions with the European Parliament on the future modernisation and reinforcement of the Agency (the Parliament organised a "mini-hearing" on the subject on 26 May). Pending this agreement, she also urged every measure to be taken to improve the efficiency of the Agency in its current working environment.
The Commission presented a 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.
The Council is expected to endorse the Commission's eGovernment Action Plan, adopted in December 2010. (see IP/10/1718). The eGovernment Action Plan aims to support the transition to a new generation of open, flexible and seamless eGovernment services at local, regional, national and EU levels. One of the main objectives of the eGovernment Action Plan is to optimise the conditions for the development of a new generation of cross-border services provided to citizens and businesses, regardless of their country of origin. Neelie Kroes will also call upon Ministers to develop more effective and efficient cross border eGovernment services in the EU, thus improving the functioning of the digital Single Market and helping citizens' and businesses to move more easily between Member States.
Neelie Kroes will present the Commission's Communication on the open internet and net neutrality in Europe, published in April (see IP/11/486).
The Communication underlined the need to ensure that citizens and businesses are easily able to access an open and neutral internet.
New EU rules requiring Member States to ensure that internet service providers give clear information on services to which a customer is subscribed are due to be applied from 25th May 2011 (see MEMO/11/319). Consumer contracts must give information about minimum service quality levels. In particular, internet subscribers must be given information about traffic management techniques and their impact on service quality, as well as any other limitations (such as bandwidth caps, available connection speed or the blocking or 'throttling' of access to certain services such as Voice Over Internet Protocol). Contracts also must give details of compensation and refunds available if these minimum levels are not met.
The Commission has asked the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) to undertake a rigorous fact-finding exercise on issues crucial to ensuring an open and neutral internet, including barriers to changing operators, blocking or throttling internet traffic (e.g. voice over internet services), transparency and quality of service. The Commission will publish, by the end of the year, evidence from BEREC's investigation, including any instances of blocking or throttling certain types of traffic. If BEREC's findings and other feedback indicate outstanding problems, the Commission will assess the need for more stringent measures.
World Radiocommunication Conference 2012 (WRC-12)
The next World Radiocommunication Conference 2012 of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) will take place early next year. As with each WRC, the Commission issued a Communication setting out the relationship between the items on the Conference Agenda and EU policies on radio spectrum. The Council is due to discuss the approach to be taken by EU Member States in the WRC-12. In the absence of a commitment from Member States to ensure a coordinated EU position, Vice-President Kroes will express her disappointment.
For more information
Neelie Kroes' website:
Digital Agenda website:
Follow Neelie Kroes on Twitter: http://twitter.com/neeliekroeseu