03 April, 2014

Press release: European Digital Economy, ETNO: “Parliamentary vote on the Connected Continent a step in the wrong direction”

ETNO voices concern over changes which might result in reduced consumers’ choice and harm to EU businesses competitiveness

Brussels, 03.04.2014 – ETNO and its members expressed concern over today’s vote in the Plenary of the European Parliament. The Plenary vote failed to meet the key objectives set by the EU Commission. The first paragraph of the European Commission proposal for a Connected Continent Regulation reads: “Europe has to tap all sources of growth to exit the crisis, create jobs and regain its competitiveness”. And it specifies that the overarching objective is to restore “growth and job creation in the Union”. We think that, with today’s vote, we moved further away from this original objective.
We recognize the efforts made by the Rapporteur in trying to achieve a balanced text under exceptional time pressure. However, the changes foreseen in the area of Open Internet, the lack of harmonization of consumer provisions across Europe and uncertainty related to the various roaming regulations in play, will result in an excessive burden for the EU telecoms sector.

ETNO Chairman Luigi Gambardella said: “Today’s vote risks derailing the original objectives of the Connected Continent Regulation, namely a strong European digital industry igniting growth and jobs creation. We are confident that the upcoming work of the EU decision makers will acknowledge such risk and will embrace the spirit of the Commission’s original proposal, confirming that the EU seeks solutions for growth, and not populist measures”.

Open Internet measures: Fundamental services could be at risk

The most worrying development is the evolution of the Open Internet provisions. The new wording introduced by the Parliament might result in restrictions of users’ choice and harm EU businesses competitiveness.
ETNO stood behind the principle of an Open Internet since the beginning of the debate. Promoting an open internet should be promoting the ability to offer innovative and better services for citizens. Regulation should in no way limit such possibilities.
In this context, we are very concerned by amendments mandating a complete separation of specialized services and requiring that they have no influence at all on the capacity which is made available to other Internet services.
Establishing such a principle would affect the provision of essential innovative services such as telemedicine or e-education, but it would also affect existing services such as IP-TV, tele-presence and Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) for business. The text approved today would introduce far-reaching restrictions on traffic management, which would make an efficient management of the network almost impossible, resulting in a lower quality internet for all.

Luigi Gambardella added: “If the restrictive changes to the Open Internet provisions are confirmed in the final text, the access of European citizens and businesses to innovative and high-quality services will be negatively affected. This would turn into a dangerous situation, in which the European digital economy will suffer and EU businesses will be put in a difficult competitive situation with respect to other regions of the world”.

Few positive elements left: Next steps will be fundamental
ETNO acknowledges the work of the Rapporteur in supporting and further improving measures for a more efficient and more harmonized use of spectrum. These measures support the wide availability of high-speed wireless networks in the EU and should be a priority in the legislative process going forward.
Establishing more targeted and proportionate rules for network access in the EU should also be a top-priority for the co-legislator: this is a unique opportunity to improve the sector’s competitiveness and benefit end-users through increased levels of innovation in networks and services. 
Unless the significant corrections mentioned are made during the legislative process, this Regulation will ultimately contribute to increase the already heavy regulatory burden imposed on European companies. This would be in contrast with other areas of the world, where the digital economy is significantly more supported.

For more information on ETNO’s full position on the Connected Continent Regulation, see our Position Paper at this link. 
For media inquiries: Alessandro Gropelli, Head of Communications and Media, gropelli@etno.eu, 0032 (0) 4769 41839, Twitter: @ETNOAssociation

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