EC VP calls for strong net neutrality rules and end to geo-blocking

Andrus Ansip

Andrus Ansip

European Commission vice-president and digital single market commissioner Andrus Ansip has called for “strong net neutrality rules and more coordination on spectrum” along with “an end to geo-blocking and other barriers to e-commerce”.

In a speech at a European Voice event on Creating Europe’s Digital Highways, Ansip called  for the implementation of a single set of common rules.

“On net neutrality, there are three elements we should address: firstly, we need to make sure that the internet is not splintered apart by different rules. This is why we need common rules for net neutrality,” said Ansip.

“Then, we need an open internet for consumers. No blocking or throttling. And we want an internet that allows European industry to innovate and provide better services for consumers.”

On the spectrum issue, Ansip condemned the lack of action of spectrum coordination by EU member states, despite its importance to the EU’s telecoms single market proposals.

“[Spectrum] is the oxygen for the internet. It is the basis for a digitally enabled society. The more divided it is, the less efficient. We need spectrum for our digital economy to grow with the Internet of Things and the advent of 5G,” said Ansip.

Ansip said the European telecoms market was “still quite splintered”.

On the question of geo-blocking, Ansip said that a public consultation on copyright a year ago had shown that 95% of people were dissatisfiled with geo-blocking. The survey showed that one in five Europeans wanted to access content from other EU countries, while over a quarter wanted to access content from their own country when they are abroad.

“When we put an end to geo-blocking and other barriers to e-commerce like the high cost of cross-border parcel delivery, digital demand will inevitably rise,” he said. “It will lead to more traffic – and Europe’s telecommunications systems, networks and industry need to be ready to cope.”

Ansip’s speech came ahead of a meeting of the EC College of Commissioners today that will discuss the digital single market. Separately, on Monday, the EU’s member states began negotiations with the European Parliament on the telecoms single market. Ansip said that the starting point of these negotiations was “far less than I would have liked” and demonstrated “a lack of ambition”, for example discussing a reduction in mobile roaming charges rather than their outright abolition.