Back when I was doing my traveling around Europe, I came to be a big fan of the European Union, mostly because of how it made it so much to get between countries, and because I didn't have to deal with currency exchange rates every time I went somewhere new. Score!
I'm not a pie-in-the-sky type, though, and I do recognize the inherent problem with the EU; mainly how it difficult it is to get 20-something countries, each with their own interests, to agree on policies.
But such opposition does not mean that the European Commission will stop putting out ambitious plans. Hence its latest idea: to makes Europe into a single telecommunications market.
The reasons behind the idea are simple: there are a glut of telecommunications companies spread across Europe, making the market fragmented, difficult to navigate and expensive to call between countries.
It is estimated that telecoms services account for 9% of Europe’s digital economy, but the market is so fragmented that citizens are "subject to something of a lottery when it comes to access to these services," the European Commission wrote in a policy proposal released on Wednesday.
"Substantial progress towards a European single market for telecoms is essential for Europe’s strategic interests, and economic progress; for the telecom sector itself; and for citizens who are frustrated that they do not have full and fair access to telecom services such as internet and mobile services," the Commission said.
"The importance of reliable and fast access to the internet will increase with the prevalence of cloud computing. This requires the availability of high quality networks, which can only be provided by a healthy telecoms sector, making this a strategic interest for Europe."
Another benefit the Commission points out from this plan: a boost for the economy, in the form of developers. The app economy alone has driven 794,000 jobs since 2008.
With the new plan, the Commission wants consumers In EU countries to be able to obtain services from any EU operator, "without discrimination, regardless of where they are based." In turn, those operators will be able to competitively offer services outside of their home country, and market, to consumers based throughout other EU countries.
- Addressing some of the different interpretations of regulations between nations, and creating a single set of rules for carriers to follow.
- Getting rid of roaming for incoming and outgoing calls.
- Guaranteeing open access for all EU citizens, and stopping the practice of carriers blocking or slowing down services, which harms the interests of consumers and app providers.
- Offering new business opportunities to the telecom sector, making it less complex to invest in networks and provide and guarantee services across borders.
This is obviously a good idea, to stop shady business practices that ultimately wind up giving consumers an inferior product that they are paying more for. But will it pass?
The proposal was already coming under fire, even before being officially introduced, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday, with some countries blasting it for not going far enough and the telecommunications companies said it would be too expensive without actually fixing the problems.
The consensus is that something has to be done to regulate the EU telecommunications industry; the problem now becomes getting 28 member states to agree on what that means.
You can read the entire proposal below:
(Image source: http://blogs.independent.co.uk)