Brussels, 13th July 2011
Digital Agenda: second CEO Roundtable on broadband investment to sustain internet growth
European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes indicated to CEOs at their final Roundtable meeting in Brussels on 13th July that she will take into account messages from all of the participants delivered during the past four months' discussions on boosting investment in high speed broadband networks to meet the Europe 2020 broadband targets. For her part, Vice-President Kroes pointed to the Commission's proposal for €9.2 billion to be allocated in 2014-2020 under the Connecting Europe Facility to investment in broadband and digital service infrastructures, which could leverage over €100 billion of private investment, and to the consultation just launched on fostering a digital single market for audiovisual content (see IP/11/868 and MEMO/11/502), as audiovisual content and applications are crucial for fostering demand for broadband access. The CEOs, from a broad range of companies and stakeholders with an interest in broadband networks (including content providers, equipment makers, investors and telecoms operators), have been working since the first Roundtable meeting in March 2011 in response to Vice-President Kroes' request to come forward with concrete proposals on how to address the broadband investment challenge (see MEMO/11/135). The work has been coordinated by Ben Verwaayen of Alcatel-Lucent, René Obermann of Deutsche Telekom and Jean-Bernard Lévy of Vivendi. The Digital Agenda for Europe (see IP/10/581, MEMO/10/199 and MEMO/10/200) aims to ensure very fast internet access that will enable citizens to shop, create, learn, socialise and interact online and is also essential for the economy to grow.
At the end of the Roundtable Vice-President Kroes concluded: “While it is understandable that commercial players try to maximise their own advantages, we also need to recognise that we have common interests. We all want Europe to catch the high-speed broadband train. It has been worth the time and effort for us all together to touch upon every single root cause of the problems at stake. This sometimes painful “catharsis” has not resulted in a consensus view on the principles presented by the coordinators but it has certainly helped to build mutual understanding. A number of other interesting ideas have been discussed as well. For my part, I will now take the time to examine in detail every proposed principle, every document and every idea delivered by each participant throughout the Roundtable process. I can assure you that my future actions will take full account of the views of all the CEOs involved in the Roundtable and all other interested parties, and will be preceded by further wide consultation.”
Discussion at the 13th July Roundtable focused on the three main themes for which industry set up specific working groups:
the sustainability of the internet ecosystem
open access, interoperability and connectivity, and
the NGA investment framework and financing.
Neelie Kroes thanked CEOs for their active participation process and signalled a number of the messages drawn from all the contributions provided during the process:
1. Given the current broadband roll-out trends, investment efforts need to be stepped up to achieve the Digital Agenda's broadband targets. The level of roll-out of high-speed networks (also known as "next generation access" or NGA networks) is very diverse across Europe and take-up levels are disappointing. Investors are not always willing to commit the funds required to carry out a massive NGA roll-out. This trend has to be addressed in the long-term interest of consumers and competitiveness.
2. A significant barrier to NGA roll-out is that demand for ultra-high speed services and applications and the migration of customers towards NGA networks is uncertain, at least in the short term. The future relationship between copper and NGA and between fixed and wireless networks is hard to predict with certainty. This increases the level of risk and puts into question the return on investments. This uncertainty has to be addressed in order to reassure investors.
3. Europe needs healthy companies willing and able to invest. Sufficient scale and specialisation, achieved also through a further consolidation, are overall market trends that Europe should encourage, in full respect of competition rules. Pan-European companies should help market integration and the emergence of truly pan-European services, which are not sufficient today.
4. There is a call for one single binding European regulatory framework. The Commission will certainly do its utmost, together with the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC), to guide national regulators so that we adopt a coherent approach on every matter of relevance to move forward towards the broadband targets. The Commission will make use of the new enforcement tools in the EU's revised telecoms legislation, both through a case by case assessment of national notifications and more general guidance on key regulatory concepts, such as non-discrimination and costing methodologies.
5. There is a need to develop open and interoperable standards for next generation products. This is good for the efficient use of the networks, allowing operators to develop their business models availing themselves of standardised wholesale products, thereby driving innovation and competition.
6. The Commission takes on board the message, when talking about the Internet eco-system, that a robust best-efforts internet to which everyone has access should be maintained, while players at different levels of the Internet value chain should be free to reach commercial agreements to innovate and develop new business models. The best way to deal with any perceived imbalance is through commercial negotiations. If there is a need to introduce safeguards and legal certainty to ensure these negotiations are fair, the Commission will study the issue carefully once BEREC finalises its thorough analysis of the situation by the end of this year. The Commission accepts the industry's offer to take self-regulatory initiatives to ensure transparency on the characteristics and performance of broadband offers to European consumers.
The Digital Agenda for Europe sets specific targets of:
basic broadband coverage for all EU citizens and businesses by 2013
internet coverage of 30 Mbps or above for all Europeans by 2020 with half European households subscribing to connections of 100 Mbps or higher.
Documents presented by coordinating CEOs:
Digital Agenda website:
Broadband package of measures to facilitate the roll-out and take-up of fast and ultra-fast broadband: see IP/10/1142, MEMO/10/426 and MEMO/10/427.
Neelie Kroes' website:
Follow Neelie Kroes on Twitter:
Participants CEO Roundtable 13 July
European Investment Bank
France Telecom Orange