Kroes firms up telecom single market plan, calls for net neutrality

Neelie Kroes

Neelie Kroes

EU vice-president Neelie Kroes has firmed up her proposals for a single market in telecom services and reiterated that a package will be introduced in September. 

Kroes said that the economic boost from a single telecommunications market could be as high as €110 billion a year and that the broadband business could create two million jobs in Europe. She said action was need now and rejected the longer term option, proposed by French MEP Catherine Trautman, of a comprehensive review of the sector that she said could take up to five years to complete.

Speaking at an ITRE committee meeting in the European parliament, Kroes said that it is essential that operators should be able to operate anywhere in Europe within an EU-wide framework of rules.

“It must be easier to communicate across borders. Without operators facing a tangle of different, incompatible rules. If you’re allowed to operate anywhere in Europe – authorised within an EU framework — then you should be able to operate everywhere in the EU,” said Kroes. “And I don’t just mean ‘possible’: but straightforward in practice. Like a single authorisation system with supervision by the home member state.”

She said it was important to develop consistent ways for service providers to access fixed networks by standardizing ‘virtual bitstream’-type products and guaranteeing quality for interconnection services. Spectrum bands also need more consistent licence conditions, she said, with harmonisation of spectrum allocation across the EU.

Kroes said the package would include a guarantee of network neutrality. “Blocking or throttling services isn’t just unfair and annoying for users – it’s a death sentence for innovators too. So I will guarantee net neutrality. With more transparency, so you know what’s in your contract. Making it easier to switch providers. Allowing the new premium services which so many new services rely on – from cloud computing to eHealth. And I will end anticompetitive blocking and throttling, for every citizen, on every network, on every device. Internet growth depends on openness and innovation: I will provide an absolute safeguard,” she said.

Kroes also reiterated her commitment to bring roaming charges to an end, stating that European calls should not count as costly “international calls”. However, she said that the creation of the single market would itself end roaming surcharges by bringing competitive pressure of operators to bring down prices.