(Brussels, 8 March 2017): The EU’s proposed Electronic Communications Code was welcomed as attention turned to policy issues on the first day of Cable Congress 2017 in Brussels. A mixed industry and policy-maker panel recognised the European Commission’s efforts to strike a balance between incentivising investment into high-speed broadband and ensuring an appropriate level of competition around Europe.
Anthony Whelan, a Director at DG Connect in the European Commission, said “our legislative framework over the past 15 years has been good at delivering what we were aiming for, namely increased competition and better quality of networks. Today, the market has changed, which is why we believe our framework needs to evolve.”
Gregory Pankert, a partner at Arthur D. Little, presented the potential of next generation applications in the gigabit society, from integrated living to entertainment and teleworking solutions. He insisted that while innovation is strong in these sectors, and many applications are being developed, they will only be fully rolled out when we have the right networks to support them. “The technical requirements for networks, including two-way transmission of high-quality video and/or critical sensitive data are not met by today’s network. There is a need to move to the third internet cycle to ensure we reap the benefits of these next generation applications.”
Cornelia Kutterer, Director of Digital Policy at Microsoft, agreed: “The uptake of cloud computing or the democratisation of AI will only increase the need for capacity. There is a need for continued investment in Europe.”
Beatrice Flammini, VP EU affairs at Liberty Global, pointed out that “for consumers, the question of trust is crucial. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) debate brought to light that European citizens care about privacy a lot, much more than Americans. Everything operators do must be about building a trusted relationship. Whatever they do on our connection is secured and their data is treated in an appropriate way.” Kutterer added that “European regulation on privacy is actually an ‘export product’ – many countries look at the GDPR to update their frameworks. Companies like ours also use the EU rules as a general standard around the world, which de facto exports those rules.”
Andrea Huber, Managing Director of ANGA, called for equal treatment across the sector: “large multinationals, operating across Europe, have a role to play. But smaller, local cable operators are also crucial. We call on regulators not to favour one or the other models.”
The tensions faced by the industry were highlighted by the panel. Network-based operations will tend to remain fairly national, but the concept of a level playing field in the upcoming EU legislation is forcing OTT operators, who are by nature pan-European, to deal with 28 different regulators. Johannes Gungl, incoming chair of BEREC, commented that “many in the industry, and even us regulators within BEREC, are not sure that the current definition of the level playing field is fit for purpose. But so far no one has come up with a better idea.”
Cable Congress 2017 is taking place in Brussels from Wednesday 8 March until Thursday 9 March. Please visit www.cablecongress.com for the latest updates, talk to us on Twitter via @CableEurope, and follow the conversation live using #cablecongress.
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About Cable Europe
Cable Europe is the trade association that connects leading broadband cable TV operators and their national trade associations throughout the European Union. The regulatory and public policy activities of Cable Europe aim to promote and defend the industry’s policies and business interests at European and international level. The European cable industry provides high speed broadband internet, TV services, and telephony into the home of more than 63 million homes in the European Union.