Brussels, 11 March 2002
New incentives and a change of policy may be necessary to ensure that broadband Internet access is rolled out faster, the European Commissioner for Information Society and Enterprise, Erkki Liikanen, heard at a conference in Brussels on 7 March.
The message came from the conference organisers, EICTA (European information and communications technology industry association), who urged two key changes to ensure that broadband services are made widely available. Firstly, EICTA would like to see incentives made available, particularly to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and consumers, such as tax deductibility of expenses incurred in purchasing broadband access equipment or tax credits for the creation of broadband content.
It also advocates government funding for the creation of educational broadband content. Secondly, it encourages Member States to provide the facilities necessary for partnerships between local authorities and the private sector to create primary broadband infrastructure. In addition, it calls for funding to ensure that less developed regions are not left behind in the development of broadband access.
EICTA claims that these steps are vital if the roll out of broadband is to help Europe achieve its goal of being the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010. It highlights that at present, a vicious circle is preventing effective roll out. Without incentives to develop a broadband network, there is too little coverage, which in turn means there is little motivation to create broadband content. This lack of content adds to the lack of incentive to extend the broadband network.
'Existing policy will not be sufficient to break this vicious circle and get broadband off the ground at an acceptable pace and with sufficient geographical coverage for all of Europe's citizens to benefit from its use,' EICTA says. The present situation in EU Member States is characterised by too many high prices, limited transmission rates and too little content, it adds.
Mr Liikanen responded to these concerns by emphasising that the Commission is putting pressure on national regulators to ensure that telecommunications incumbents open up to new market entrants who can help stimulate broadband. He added that the Competition DG was also monitoring the situation. But he felt that one of the main spurs in helping to roll out broadband would be the competition between the different means of supplying broadband services, such as cable, TV, digital subscriber lines and satellite.
He added he was confident that there would be progress in the area once the broadband issue was added to the list of EU political priorities, which is expected to happen at the Barcelona Summit on 15 March.