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EC sets out Digital Agenda aims and means

The European Commission has published a package of measures comprising a recommendation on regulation of access to next-generation broadband networks, including fibre networks, a proposal to make spectrum available by 2013 for wireless broadband applications and a Broadband Communication setting out a framework to meet its Digital Agenda broadband targets, including how to best encourage public and private investment in fast broadband networks.

The EC said that a Digital Agenda was necessary because “30% of Europeans have never used the internet. There are four times as many music downloads in the US as in the EU because of the lack of legal offers and fragmented markets. Europe is also lagging behind its industrial partners such as the US and Japan on investment in ICT research and take-up of ultra high-speed networks. Only 1% of Europeans have access to fibre-based high-speed networks, as compared to 12% Japanese and 15% South Koreans. The EU is spending only 40% of US levels for ICT research and development.”

The European Digital Agenda’s target is to bring internet connections of 30 Mbps or above for all Europeans by 2020 with half European households subscribing to connections of 100 Mbps or higher. It also aims to find solutions for pan-European access to legal online content by simplifying copyright clearance, management and cross-border licensing, and to introduce a Single Euro Payment Area (SEPA) for online transactions. The EC also announced a series of measures to encourage more ICT R&D spending by governments, with a view to doubling this to €11bn a year by 2020.
The EC announcement was broadly welcomed by regulators and industry bodies.

“The Commission underscores the importance of both fibre (FTTH) and cable (DOCSIS 3.0) to fulfil broadband targets. We are already fulfilling the 100mbps goal today in most markets throughout Europe,” said Cable Europe President, Manuel Kohnstamm. “Our fibre powered networks will be needed to fulfil the ambitious policy goals of 2020. The market should be led by consumer demand and we are more than ready to step up to such demands. Our business relies on it. We’re cable and we’ll deliver. We’re getting over 100 million EU households ready for ultra fast broadband as quickly as we can.”

French communications regulator ARCEP meanwhile welcomed the Commission’s proposals on fibre access regulation, balancing the need to encourage investment with ensuring open and non-discriminatory access to competitors.