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European Commission

Neelie Kroes

Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda

Building a communicating single market

Digital Agenda Assembly/Dublin

20 June 2013

To add your comment to this speech, see the social version of the speech here

Thank you for coming. I'm sure it's been a busy couple of days.

In my time as Digital Agenda commissioner, I've been busy too.

Last December we set out some priorities for our digital agenda. Things to focus on to lead in the digital race. We said, and now we are doing.

We said we would create a new regulatory environment for broadband. Offering consistency, certainty and competition. We will soon be ready to put it in place. And more investments are already flowing in, meaning more broadband for more people.

We said we'd invest in new infrastructure to connect online services. And we will do so, in spite of huge cuts to the Connecting Europe Facility. Focusing on areas critical to a digital single market. So for more and more tasks, you can do it online.

We said we'd build the ICT skills to cut unemployment and prepare our workforce for the digital age. And our Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs has collected 35 pledges: for new programmes, new platforms, new partnerships. Providing more training, more skills, more jobs. Thanks to those who take part: we couldn't do it without you.

We said we'd build a more secure digital world with resilient networks and systems. Now the Parliament and Council need to give urgent priority to our legislation. If one link goes down, so can the whole system; our proposed rules would ensure everyone plays their part. Right now this should be every politician's top priority. The alternative would be costly, destabilising and destructive.

We said we'd modernise our copyright framework. And legislation is now going through on licensing. Bringing down single market barriers: and making it easier for you to legally access the music you love.

We said we'd stimulate new services like cloud computing. To dismantle national fortresses, and ensure a hundred-billion-euro boost. And our European cloud partnership is harnessing the huge power of the public sector.

We said we'd build a strong European electronics sector. And our industrial strategy will help Europe lead the world. All together stimulating one hundred billion euros in investment – and helping every sector. From the phone in your pocket to the car you drive: they all benefit from chip innovation.

That's just to name some of the things we've achieved. But there's one thing left to do. One really important thing.

Because we have all these exciting new services on offer. From video-on-demand to virtual universities, cloud computing to teleconferencing; e-Health to the "Internet of Things".

They promise to pervade every sector of our economy, every domain of our life. But they all rely on, and are underpinned by, one thing: broadband networks. Networks that are fast, reliable, resilient. Connectivity based on openness, choice, and fair prices. Telecoms services that spread as wide as our single market, and make a reality of the borderless, limitless potential of the Internet itself.

Millions of Europeans use our single market to travel, trade, or transact across Europe. Citizens and businesses. Now they need the communications to match.

At the moment we don't have that. Telecoms operators are stuck in tiny national markets, with borders and barriers at every turn. Expanding means dealing with a tiresome patchwork of multiple systems: for licences, spectrum, numbering and more.

And that's bad news for consumers. With hundreds of providers in Europe, mostly you can only choose among 3 or 4. And it's too hard to communicate across borders. Quality is poor; there are few innovative services beyond basic phone calls; and prices are unfairly high. If I phone the town next door, within our single market, that shouldn't count as a costly "international" call.

And the mobile in your pocket should not be the last remaining reminder of our internal borders: they should have disappeared long ago.

This isn't a problem in the US or China. There, operators serve hundreds of millions, under a single set of rules. No wonder they are racing ahead of us. No wonder Europeans suffer from poorer connections and slower broadband. No wonder European players are losing out in almost every corner of the ecosystem. No wonder all the major internet players come from outside Europe, from social networks to device makers.

For one thing, we need net neutrality. Citizens must enjoy the full and open internet; startups and innovators must know their bright idea won't get blocked. I will ban such behaviour: it's unfair, untransparent, and anti-competitive. And I will safeguard net neutrality in Europe: for every European, on every device, on every network.

But a single market goes beyond that one issue. I want networks that genuinely work across Europe. Find every barrier to a true single market – and take them down, one by one. So it's just as easy to call and connect across borders as within them.

I plan to give operators a passport. So once you can operate somewhere in the EU, you can operate everywhere. Just like other sectors that get the single market boost, from banking to broadcasting.

I want to make it easier to plan and work—across multiple networks, across multiple borders, fixed and wireless.

And I want to get rid of the current tangle of different systems. So operators don't have the headache of 27 incompatible rules, regulators and remedies. And with a single consumer space, so you enjoy the same rights, wherever you're from, wherever your operator is from.

And a single market also means no roaming. The EU has already acted – meaning fewer barriers, more choice, and fairer prices for all. In just under two weeks, EU action will cut the cost of browsing when you travel by a further 35%.

But I want to go further. I want to take more steps against those annoying, unfair charges. And bring an end to roaming once and for all.

That's how I want to deliver a competitive, connected continent. Where operators can smash barriers and think big. Plan, bid and invest on a large scale. Think European and compete globally. And then every European can benefit from faster networks, better services, fairer prices.

But let me also be clear what we're not planning. We are not seizing sovereignty. Nor setting up some new EU super-regulator. We are not taking away governments' right to sell or auction spectrum, nor to keep the resulting funds. Some may enjoy centralisation or institution building for its own sake; I don't. I'm too pragmatic for that.

But what we are doing is taking the practical steps to boost our economy. And make our single market fit for the digital age. And, trust me, we need it.

So I am grateful to you for your work to support our digital agenda. What you've discussed over these two days matters to us all.

But, whatever you've been discussing, whichever workshops you've been attending, I'll bet they depend on broadband. And if you want our broadband to be better, faster, more resilient: then make sure your voice is heard. To national governments. To Members of the European Parliament. To Presidents and Prime Ministers. And they will all need to be reminded.

Getting this legislation won't be easy: but it is essential. To boost our economy, we need to become a connected, competitive continent. We need to be the integrated home of investment and innovation. We need a single market that communicates. So let's make that case together.


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