The answer is simply yes.
The word technology can be defined in various ways, but all of them are intrinsically international. The most recent Internet technology knows no borders and cannot be contained in a nation state. I believe the recent developments in Northern Africa provide ample proof of that. Also, in terms of the more traditional technology, information and communication goods and services travel much more rapidly than some other goods. Technological developments and businesses go global immediately.
While I do not underestimate the developments in many countries, not least China, India, South Korea and Japan, I do believe that both the USA and the European Union play a leading role. The USA is known for its various billion dollar companies having grown from garages. European companies have led the way in touch screen technology and mobile communications. The European Union also boasts enormous developments in areas like eHealth, eGovernment and other ICT applications used in our every day life.
Transatlantic cooperation is not only a desire, it is a reality. Apart from the regular meetings that are organised between the European Union and the USA there are a couple of specific elements of cooperation that I wish to highlight:
Firstly, I signed a Memorandum of Understanding with my American counterpart last year on cooperation in the area of eHealth.
Secondly, last April the USA and the EU jointly agreed a set of ICT Trade Principles that will be used towards third countries to encourage them to establish a genuine open and global market.
Thirdly, under the direction of our political leaders the EU-USA Summit instructed me and my colleagues to set up an ambitious plan to enhance cooperation in the area of cyber-security.
Fourthly, intensive discussions are ongoing between the USA and the EU on the various issues revolving around Cloud Computing.
These are examples of the ongoing work. I believe they speak for themselves. Technology is a good area for Transatlantic cooperation.
6. How can companies best support the Digital Agenda initiative?
The Commission has been calling on all stakeholders to engage in projects supporting the Digital Agenda. During the Digital Agenda Assembly, thousands of participants gathered to put their ideas together and identify concrete projects that contribute to the Digital Agenda objectives. Europe needs healthy companies willing and able to invest. Sufficient scale and specialisation, achieved through a further consolidation, are overall market trends that Europe should encourage, in full respect of competition rules. Pan-European companies should help market integration and the emergence of truly pan-European services, which are not sufficient today. It is exactly those companies that buck the trend of the economic downturn by investing in their future that will be better placed to reap the benefits. And companies also need to be aware of their social responsibility, precisely in order to avoid a need for heavy regulation of the internet that could blunt innovation. For example, they need to act on their special responsibility towards children online, and I am approaching leading companies with concrete ideas on how to achieve this.
7. What are you doing to boost investment in new networks?
I must emphasise that infrastructure investment will be led by the private sector and our most important action is to create the right conditions to encourage private initiatives. This is at the core of the regulatory framework for e-communications, revised by the Commission in 2009 and complemented by the 2010 Recommendation on regulated access to Next Generation Access Networks. This framework has proved successful in the past as demonstrated by the rapid growth of basic broadband which produced the world’s largest single broadband market in the EU. Now we must repeat it for Next Generation infrastructure but, as I noted in one of my earlier answers, the very high costs of doing this present an obstacle to achieving the Digital Agenda targets for superfast broadband networks.
Therefore, the Digital Agenda strategy will seek to encourage investment by cutting the costs of infrastructure investment. The Commission is also working with the European Investment Bank to develop innovative financial instruments to support broadband investment.
Lastly, I would say that boosting private investment will still leave some areas, particularly hard to reach rural communities, without adequate coverage and the Digital Agenda therefore also incorporates direct public support to connect them. State aid rules ensure that such public expenditure does not distort private investment and the Commission is currently having a public consultation to see if the State aid rules for broadband need to be revised in the light of rapid market developments.
8. How is cable doing as a Digital Agenda partner and what more can it do to bring its fibre rich offering to customers?
I appreciate the important ways in which cable in Europe can contribute to achieving the objectives of the Digital Agenda. Just over 50% of all EU households are currently within the physical reach of cable networks. This clearly could help reaching our target of 100 Mbps broadband connections for half of Europe’s citizens. On top of this, cable has an important role to play in at least two respects. First, it can widely offer 100 Mbps at attractive prices incurring lower costs, and as a result also lower risk which provides a clear competitive edge. Second, by competing head-on, in particular – but not only – with incumbent operators, cable increases the sense other next-generation network infrastructure, such as fibre. This is why I hope that efforts to upgrade cable networks to provide high-speed broadband keep on making rapid progress, also beyond the existing reach of cable networks. In addition, should cable companies with upgraded networks decide to engage in greater price leadership, adding stronger competitive pressure on traditional telecoms networks, we would obviously welcome that!