The European Commission has confirmed it will review current telecoms rules as one of three main areas it will focus on as it attempts to get its Digital Single Market reform into law.
The announcement came as the College of Commissioners, which was sworn in last October, had its first discussion on its Digital Single Market Strategy on Wednesday.
It promised to review the current telecoms rules “to make them fit for new challenges”. In particular, it said it would look at challenges relating to consumer uses – it cited the increasing number of voice calls made over the internet – and new players in the field.
As part of a focus area titled “shaping the environment for digital networks and services to flourish”, it said “a European approach” to spectrum management is needed and “the swift adoption” of new Data Protection Regulation was key.
However, details were thin on the ground.
Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip promised to come back on 6 May, when he is set to unveil the Commission's official Digital Single Market strategy, with “specific solutions”.
In a Q&A session he said operators and OTT providers had “unbalanced relations” and that he hoped to abolish roaming “pretty soon”.
However, in a statement he acknowledged the process would be “an uphill struggle all the way”.
On Tuesday, Ansip delivered a speech in which he said it was not possible to have a Digital Single Market without “the necessary backbone of telecommunications”.
He was speaking a day after the EU's Member States started negotiations with the European Parliament on the Telecom Single Market reform, which was unveiled back in September 2013.
But Ansip labeled the starting point of the discussions, particularly those related to roaming, as “a joke”.
As European Communications reported in December, agreement on the package is far off as all parties involved continue to argue over technical details.
“I am happy to see that negotiations between EU Member States and the European Parliament have finally started,” he said in the speech at a Creating Europe's Digital Highways event.
“But I also have to say that their starting point is far less than I would have liked. There is a lack of ambition, certainly less than the Commission had originally planned for.”
In addition to telecoms, the Commission promised to focus on better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services – it cited facilitating cross-border e-commerce and tackling geo-blocking as two key areas.
The third focus area is “Creating a European Digital Economy and Society with long-term growth potential”, which will look at areas such as big data and cloud computing.
No mention was made of net neutrality.
Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society Günther H. Oettinger said: “Europe cannot be at the forefront of the digital revolution with a patchwork of 28 different rules for telecommunications services, copyright, IT security and data protection.
“We need a European market, which allows new business models to flourish, start-ups to grow and the industry to take advantage of the internet of things. And people have to invest too – in their IT-skills, be it in their job or their leisure time”.