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SPEECH/09/231












Viviane Reding

Member of the European Commission responsible for Information Society and Media




Internet of the Future: What policies to make it happen?






















Future of the Internet Conference
Prague, 11 May 2009

Minister, State secretary, Secretary General of the OECD, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It's a pleasure to be with you today to share my views on "The Future Internet". Let me first seize this opportunity to warmly thank the Czech Presidency for its undivided support to the organisation of this conference in the beautiful city of Prague.

For the policy maker, the Future Internet must represent an opportunity to improve the competitiveness of our European businesses, to create more innovation based growth and jobs, and to further contribute to the social well being of our citizen.

The Internet of today has already largely contributed to these policy goals. Over the last 15 years, it has enabled the creation of an entirely new economic sector. It has also deeply transformed our approach to social relations, to access to culture, education, or entertainment.

But more is to come. New challenges are ahead of us: an ageing population, environmental and energy concerns, the scarcity of raw materials, globalisation, and regional imbalances are typical examples. The OECD ministerial conference on "The future of the Internet economy" in Seoul last year has stressed the vital role that Internet and ICT technologies can play to tackle these issues.

Novel socio-economic trends fuelled by restless technological developments will also raise new challenges and opportunities for the Internet. Let me mention a few of these:

  1. Web 2.0 and social networks are growing at viral rates. Popular social sites attract more than 120 millions regular users. This is only the beginning as web 2.0 applications will be more and more used by businesses, not only by individuals. The emergence of 'enterprise 2.0' will bring about huge benefits to European companies and SMEs in particular.
  2. Mobility and nomadic usages are becoming the norm. This year, the number of mobile users in the world has passed the 4-billion level. By 2012, at least 1 billion of those will use mobile as their only access to the Internet, adding to the today 1.5 billion of fixed users.
  3. An ever richer content and media environment. Content is clearly one of the main drivers of Internet changes. Popular social video sites add 13 hours of user video content to the Internet every minute! Search engine systems refresh the equivalent of the entire library of Congress every four hours. Every year, the Internet traffic grows by 60%. This is mainly due to video and will be further amplified with the advent of on line 3D content.
  4. The emergence of an Internet with "Things": In the near future, it will be possible to interconnect myriads of objects and devices, beyond the connectivity of today that covers computers, servers and web pages. This extended nervous system will make possible new types of applications combining information of the virtual world with a perception of the physical world. Economic prospects are significant, with an estimated market of € 30 billion by 2016 for the sole segment of RFID enabled applications.
  5. Last but certainly not least, the ever growing sensitivity to security and trust issues. I will come back to this issue.

So, the question that we can ask is the following: Is the Internet of today able to face the increasing number of requirements and expectations I just mentioned? Concerns have been expressed by several prominent industrial and academic stakeholders that this is not the case.

A large part of the issues at stake is of technological nature and require in depth research work. The "Future Internet Assembly", which is meeting over the next two days, will address them in more depth.

However, the Internet of tomorrow also raises important policy issues. As the Internet becomes more pervasive and critical to our citizen and societies, new opportunities for innovation and growth have to be encouraged. On the other hand, new risks in terms of privacy, security or market distortion have to be addressed. These issues require a response from policy makers and the designers of tomorrow's Internet.

My response is clear.

First, the Internet of tomorrow must preserve openness. It must also be based on the right governance principles.

Openness is one of the key ingredients that made the Internet so successful as an innovation place and as a tool to empower users. This key characteristic of the Internet should not be compromised through future evolution of its architecture. Open standards are an essential element of the response. We need to take advantage of the win-win of open interfaces and standards such that the market can grow for all, without consumer lock in, nor with undue royalties, ultimately stifling innovation and foreclosing market entry by new players.

From the governance point of view "Net Neutrality" is essential. New network management techniques allow traffic prioritisation. These tools may be used to guarantee good quality of service but may also be used for anti-competitive practices. The Commission has taken steps to empower national regulators to prevent such unfair abuse to the detriment of consumers. These measures are at the heart of the new telecoms regulatory package for which adoption is imminent thanks also to the Czech Presidency that is sparing no effort to make it happen!

Second, my vision of the future Internet is also based on ubiquitous access to the Internet. Fixed and wireless technologies need to be widely available and interoperable to allow seamless high rate access to the Internet. With more than 100 millions broadband accesses and leading countries' penetration in the order of 40%, Europe is among the top broadband regions of the world. Europe is also a top "mobile player" and pioneering the deployment of very high rate LTE mobile networks.

The transition to high-speed broadband is crucial. Let me just mention that the European Council after a proposal from the Commission made available up to €1.02 billion for investments in broadband in the EU. On the mobile side, our spectrum policy is aiming at making available the needed spectrum, for innovative broadband wireless networks to thrive.

Third, trust and security are crucial. 70 % of the daily 200 billions of mails are spam. About 20% of the online PC population is reported to be compromised by botnets. Viruses, phishing are increasing at an alarming rate. Several recent attacks in Lithuania, Estonia and Georgia have illustrated how devastating cyber attacks may be. Security attacks are not anymore the unintended results of experimentation, but are often a lucrative economic activity for criminal organisations or the arena for politically motivated groups.

Technological responses must be found. On the other hand, these are a necessary but not sufficient condition for success. Policies need to be strengthened and, where necessary, created both in the European Union and at the international level so that we have the right tools to ensure security and resilience of our Information backbone.

On 30 March, the Commission adopted a Communication on "Critical Information Infrastructure Protection", (CIIP). It proposes an action plan to set up a framework for co-operation and collaboration across national activities. I believe that via this plan, and with a common effort of the Commission, of Member States, of the private sector and of citizens we can tackle our most immediate challenges and create a more conducive environment for a secure and resilient information society in Europe.

We also need to find the right balance between our security needs and the legitimate desire of users to protect their privacy. In this domain, the technological and scientific experts have to work hand in hand with the policy makers.

And of course, we need to develop trusted networked and service environments. There is a clear need to develop trusted cyber frameworks that will allow users to use Future Internet applications in full confidence.

Fourth: Even in these hard times of economic downturn, forward looking investments in research and innovation need to be preserved. Ambitious research initiatives have been launched, world-wide, with the objective of creating a renewed Internet architecture capable of performing its role as a critical infrastructure. The US GENI/FIND programmes, the Japanese Akari programme, the Future Internet Forum of Korea, initiatives in many of our Member States represent bold steps to define the Internet of tomorrow.

The 7th Framework Programme of R&D provides us with a powerful tool to address the needed research on the multiple aspects of a Future Internet at European level. Under this umbrella, European industrial and academic research actors benefit from a large scale co-ordinated effort of some € 400 million over two years, addressing the future of the Internet. With the launch of the FIRE initiative, European research actors will also have access to the experimental facility required by such a complex research domain.

The European approach is a truly holistic one: all network and service platforms technologies called upon to constitute the Internet of tomorrow are looked at as part of a single system. More than 90 research projects addressing the multiple facets of the Future Internet gather under the "Future Internet Assembly" (FIA), where they can exchange research results and approaches. The FIA is thus an important tool to have a better and global understanding of all the Future Internet issues at stake and to define research needs. As you can see, our commitment to long term Internet research is extremely strong. I dare to say one of the most important in the world.

In the nearer term, it is also our intention to closely couple our Future Internet technology research with applications of high societal value such as health, urban mobility, energy grids or smart cities. By so doing, we expect to provide an early "Internet response" to the societal challenges that I mentioned earlier. Our goal is to establish a Public Private Partnership with the industry to complement our longer term Future Internet research of the FP7 ICT Work Programme.

An important outcome of this Public Private Partnership will be a bold contribution to the economic recovery through innovation. This complements and reinforces the measures taken in the "innovation driven" recovery package that the Commission proposed last November. Indeed, the rapid take off of such applications supported by innovative Internet technologies can directly benefit our economies and citizens, because the target services will be provided locally. Our approach could hence be referred to as "Applying locally a global Internet technology thinking".

Currently, my services are working with industry to define the content and structure of this Public Private Partnership, towards an operational kick-off in 2011. We have also been encouraged to move in that direction by our Member States through Council conclusions of last November. I take this occasion to thank our Member States who have accepted to participate in the first meeting, tomorrow here in Prague, of the "Future Internet Forum". I see this Forum of Member States as an important initiative to better federate our Internet research in Europe, to share our know-how and to overcome fragmentation. I also count on your support to back our endeavours towards the Public Private Partnership initiative that we are planning to propose.

Concluding Remarks

Ladies and gentleman, I have briefly outlined how Europe is taking steps to become a major player in the Future Internet debates. My conviction is that we need to approach the Internet of tomorrow with a consistent policy mix, including the right approach to regulation and governance, incentives towards deployment of the needed infrastructures, and investments in research and innovation. Let me add a few concluding remarks:

  • First remark: Innovation has been at the heart of the Internet. It has also been a key pillar of our Lisbon strategy, and it is more than likely that it will also be the case under the next Commission. At a moment when we are reflecting on our "post Lisbon" and "post i2010" strategies, it is crucial that the Future Internet gets the right level of recognition under the innovation strategy that the next Commission will put in place. Your current efforts in creating the right momentum and visibility level on this issue are appreciated and need to be continued.
  • Second remark, more than ever, there is a need to establish tight links between technology developers, scientists and policy makers. This is not about putting a straight jacket on the creativity of the Internet research community. But as the Internet has become a critical backbone infrastructure of our economies and societies, the need for such a dialogue becomes an imperative.
  • Third remark: broadband, mobility, trust and security are key drivers towards the advent of a Future Internet. These are clear domains where both European industry and research community have world class expertise. European players should hence be active drivers in the Future Internet debates, and not passive listeners or simple solution adopters. This means that we in Europe should see the Future Internet developments as a golden opportunity to reinforce the competitiveness of our ICT industry and to foster the emergence of the related and innovative SME fabric.
  • Fourth remark: The Internet is already global: services are offered and consumed without distance limitations. In the future the bulk of the users world-wide will neither be in Europe nor in North-America. They will be elsewhere. This inevitably leads to a strong requirement towards global Internet governance based on a reinforced global partnership and co-operation.

I thank you for your attention and wish you a very successful conference


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