At this week’s Digital Venice 2014, the GSMA and leading European telecoms operators presented a statement to Matteo Renzi, Prime Minister of Italy and President of the Council of the European Union, at a high-level roundtable organised with Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission, and leading industry CEOs.
With the new Italian EU Presidency providing a sharpened focus on Europe’s digital opportunity, the statement called for a new ICT public policy that supports Europe in catching up with, and potentially overtaking, the other industrial regions in the ICT challenge, stimulating economic growth, job creation and improving social welfare throughout the region.
Below is the text of the joint statement, which is supported by the following CEOs of European telecoms operators:
• Timotheus Höttges, CEO, Deutsche Telekom AG
• Stéphane Richard, Chairman and CEO, Orange
• Marco Patuano, CEO, Telecom Italia
• César Alierta, Executive Chairman and CEO, Telefónica
• Jon Fredrik Baksaas, President and CEO, Telenor Group and Chairman, GSMA Board
• Vittorio Colao, CEO, Vodafone Group
DIGITAL VENICE 2014 – MAKING THE RIGHT CONNECTIONS BETWEEN INDUSTRY AND POLICY TO DELIVER A BETTER EUROPE
Europe is facing an unprecedented economic crisis. Member States of the Union are struggling to boost employment by means of complex economic policies. Identifying a robust path to growth is undoubtedly the most important current policy goal. To this end European firms need to vigorously compete in both the domestic and foreign markets and technological innovation is key. The ICT industry represents an essential pillar and opportunity for growth. The majority of the most radical technological innovations are in fact delivered by the ICT industry.
By providing fast, reliable, secure and intelligent connectivity the Communications Industry is an essential part of how every company in Europe, small or large, does business. It can provide the foundations for a new wave of economic growth, job creation and improving social welfare in Europe.
Europe, historically a pioneer in the Communications Industry, is now lagging behind the US and Asia in the deployment of new communications infrastructure. This gap does not reflect a lack of willingness to invest. It reflects differences in policy frameworks and industry structures which in other regions have been, and continue to be, more conducive to the infrastructure investments needed to support the next wave of economic growth.
Europe needs a New Digital Agenda to catch up and possibly leapfrog the other industrial regions in the ICT challenge. The success of Europe in this technological competition will entail a powerful stimulus to economic growth and job creation.
To this end, a new ICT public policy is urgently required with the following main goals.
PROMOTING ICT INFRASTRUCTURES TO SUPPORT CONSUMER WELFARE AND ECONOMIC GROWTH
1. The EU should support the development of modern digital infrastructures by ensuring a simplified, digital-friendly, pro-investment regulatory framework ensuring a fair long-term return on investments in new infrastructure. A review of the European regulatory framework is the appropriate tool for addressing such an essential goal.
2. Achievement of the 2020 Digital Agenda targets requires both private and public investment. Whilst operators are increasing investment levels across the EU there will inevitably be cases of market failure. These should be addressed by means of appropriate public funding to avoid the emergence of a new digital divide. But private investments should not be crowded out by competition from public projects.
3. The EU should support and promote the on-going reallocation of radio spectrum to the Communications Industry so that operators can continue to meet consumer and business needs for faster connection speeds and greater capacity. This process needs to be co-ordinated at the European level. Policies recently supported by the Commission and the Parliament concerning spectrum licencing provide the right answers to these issues. There is also a need to ensure award processes are not structured to extract excessive payment for spectrum as this has a direct impact on the financial capacity to invest in infrastructure.
4. The EU should support a new interpretation and application of Merger Regulation and Guidelines to reflect the rapidly changing environment, characterised by strong growth in data consumption and new sources of Internet-based competition. Consolidation in the European telecoms market, along with reasonable safeguard measures, can provide a boost to investment, support job creation and deliver innovative services without any adverse impact on competition.
5. The EU needs to support a level playing field of regulation between the Communications and Internet industries. The European Communications Industry needs greater freedom to compete on equal terms with the Internet industry. At the same time, Internet players should be subject to the same rules.
ENSURING DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP
1. Digitalisation of the Public Administration will be a critical catalyst for the spread of ICT in Europe. Telecom operators are ready to participate in ambitious projects for the timely digitalisation of Public Administration, Schools and Healthcare.
2. Fast broadband networks and the transition to full IP will allow an array of new and innovative services. In order to support the availability of customised services differentiated on the basis of quality and price a balanced approach to Open Internet regulation is required, based on general principles rather than detailed, prescriptive and restrictive rules.
3. European citizens need to retain control of their "digital life”. The EU needs to address any bottlenecks that persist due to a lack of interoperability and/or portability of personal data, content and applications when switching between platforms or providers. An open and transparent framework, concerning both telecommunications operators and Internet companies must be put in place.
4. A coordinated approach to data privacy and digital security is needed to help build trust and confidence in the uptake and use of new digital services by EU citizens and provide them with effective and consistent protection across the digital value chain. These high standards of data protection and security must be harmonised across Europe and made applicable to companies based outside the region. The Communications Industry can provide fit for purpose new digital identity services such as the GSMA Mobile Connect service which offers broad interoperability across operators and service providers.
5. The EU needs to address the systematic encryption of data traffic by Internet players as this threatens to distort the level playing field for competition and compromise the coordinated fight against cybercrime.
STIMULATING JOB CREATION
1. Telecoms operators in Europe represent one of the driving forces of the European economy; they employ millions of people. The EU should support the creation of policy frameworks that encourage telecom operator investments in ICT that, in the order of tens of billions of euro each year, can represent a boost for the European economy in the next five years, supporting both direct and indirect employment.
2. The EU should support welfare policies that promote the qualitative change in skills required in the labour market. This re-tooling of the European labour market is essential if the region is to regain a position of leadership in the Digital Economy and maximise the potential impact on growth and development.
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