European Commission Announces Its Digital Agenda for Europe: Focus on a "Digital Single Market" and Ultra-Fast Broadband by 2020
On May 19, 2010, the European Commission outlined its policy goals to advance Europe’s digital economy in a strategy document titled “A Digital Agenda for Europe.” The Agenda is part of a broader "Europe 2020" economic recovery plan and brings together some separate initiatives already underway. Some of the main priorities outlined in the Agenda are to create a single European market for digital services and European content, boost available broadband speeds and increase Internet use by addressing security, digital literacy and interoperability issues.
Unifying European Union digital markets
Part of the challenge in creating a unified digital market has been that European consumers still find that markets remain fragmented along national borders, making online transactions complicated and leaving consumers unsure of their legal rights. In fact, concerns about online payments, privacy and lack of trust were cited among the top concerns holding back consumers in Europe from making purchases online.
Some of the action items identified to address these concerns include creating an integrated electronic payment system for online transactions, strengthening consumers’ rights at the EU level, and simplifying copyright clearances and cross-border licensing for online content, such as music downloads. The Commission is proposing a new directive on pan-European collective rights management for digital content and a new legal framework to facilitate the digitization and dissemination of cultural works in Europe. The Agenda seeks to have 50 percent of the population buying online, and 20 percent buying from other EU countries by 2015. It also pushes to further reduce mobile roaming rates in Europe so that the difference between national and roaming rates “approach[es]” zero by 2015.
Faster broadband speeds
Increasing consumer access to faster broadband services is another key goal of the Agenda. The Commission is seeking universal broadband coverage by 2013 throughout the EU. By 2020, fast broadband (at least 30 Mbps) should be in use throughout the EU and super-fast broadband (at least 100 Mbps) should make up at least 50 percent of European broadband subscriptions.
The action items to achieve these goals center mostly on fostering private industry investment, including reducing regulatory burdens on next generation infrastructure deployment and encouraging use of the Digital Dividend for wireless broadband. The Agenda also looks to targeted investments by national and European government entities (in the form of public funding and guarantees) to support these efforts. The Commission will “monitor closely” the implementation of the EU’s new net neutrality legislation and announced a public consultation in the summer of 2010 on net neutrality.
To strengthen consumer trust in online transactions, the Agenda proposes reforming Europe’s cyber crime agency, the European Network and Information Security Agency, as well as establishing a broader network of computer emergency response teams (or CERTs, as they are commonly known).
The Agenda also proposes greater interoperability between devices, applications, services and networks by reforming the rules on the implementation of technology standards. The Commission warns that it will address situations in which standards are not being supported by significant market players. The Agenda also supports a new European framework to promote interoperability between eGovernment and other public services across Europe.
Research and development
Finally, the Agenda proposes increasing public research and development, and seeks to leverage and work with private initiatives. It recommends that national governments double their public spending on research in information and communications technologies to €11 billion by 2020.
A copy of the Agenda is available on the official EU website.