A simplified framework is key to boost Europe’s digital networks – interview with Steven Tas (ETNO)

The European Commission has signalled that it will be going after those barriers currently limiting investments in broadband networks. This is the right level of ambition, argues ETNO chairman Steven Tas.

DP: One of the new European Commission’s priorities is “giving more ambition to the ongoing reform of telecoms rules”. What are ETNO expectations?ST: I think that it’s very important to look at the programmatic milestones of the new Commission, especially at the mission letter of Commissioner Oettinger and at the Investment Plan presented last December.

Both documents indicate that the Commission will be going after those barriers currently limiting investments in broadband networks. This is the right level of ambition, and we think the first, urgent step is to look into the Review of the 2009 Telecoms Framework.

The coming “digital single market” package will focus on copyright, e-commerce or online services. What do you think?

We agree that reforming copyright, as well as looking at demand-sensitive aspects like e-commerce and stimulus to online services is pivotal. Investments without real digitalization of society are not enough to create prosperity.

In our view, any policy plan to create a Digital single market needs to prioritize items like spectrum harmonization measures and the review of the current access regulation.

DP: Do you think the Juncker’s investment plan live up to its ambitions? Will it manage to leverage funding from the sector?

ST: We agree with Juncker and Oettinger that the objective should be to maximize private investments. For this reason, ETNO looks with huge interest at one of the main pillars of this plan: removing regulation that hampers investment and that is outdated. We really need to reduce the complexity of our European regulatory framework. That comes at no cost for public budgets, and it can be a really smart way to stimulate broadband deployment. Let’s remember that having the best networks is not a stand-alone objective: it is the pre-requisite to building a competitive Europe”.

DP: Some Member States, such as Germany and France, are now echoing your longstanding pleas for more equal treatment with Internet giants, both on regulatory and competition terms. How the European Commission should respond?

ST: The European Commission has announced a study on the impact of new online services on digital markets. At the same time, there is a push from Member States to consider a public consultation on basically the same topics. ETNO believes in less and simpler regulation for all

Changes in markets reality and consumers’ behaviour need to be at the core of the upcoming digital policies. This will unleash the innovation and investment potential of our Continent”.

DP: How do you see the on-going debate on Net Neutrality and on the end of roaming charges, especially in light of the Council agreement on the Connected Continent package?

ST: Developing Net Neutrality rules means regulating the internet. This is a serious matter. If we believe that the internet should be regulated, I think we are better off with a light touch approach, based on simple principles that do not interfere with innovation and do not depress investments.

On roaming, I think we need first of all to admit that the industry was in the past not fast enough to respond to concerns. But today we have a variety of offers matching consumers’ increasing quest for mobility. So the market is responding well now. It is also important to have regulatory certainly and consistency with the previous roaming regulation that was introduced only recently.

DP: By the way, given that most Connected Continent landmark proposals have been dropped by the Council, do you believe that it should be envisaged to withdraw the proposal and start the work from the scratch?  

ST: The power of initiating or withdrawing a legislative proposal lies with the Commission. From an industry perspective, as the debate on the Regulation approaches its final stage, ETNO believes there is an even stronger sense of urgency to reforming the current set of digital policies and regulation. We need to do more, and faster, to remove barriers to investment. We must not miss the momentum of achieving a stronger digital Europe.

Source: The Digital Post

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