IT and Telecommunication in the EU

Even if the Internet and the mobile phone have been the main factors of change in our everyday lives over the last ten years, it is still expensive to communicate across borders. Therefore, the Member States are working towards lowering prices and creating better conditions for the growing sector.

During the Danish Presidency of the Council of the EU, a number of dossiers on telecommunications will dominate the work of the Council. Below you can read more about these matters and the EU’s policy in this area.

Cheaper mobile phone usage and mobile broadband

International Roaming allows you to use your mobile subscription and mobile broadband subscription abroad.

The current roaming regulation will expire on 30 June 2012. During the Danish Presidency of the Council a decision has to be made on whether the EU should continue to regulate roaming prices.

International roaming has generally been expensive for consumers. Therefore, the EU and Denmark are working to reduce consumer prices. Since 2007, the EU has gradually introduced lower prices for international roaming within the EU by introducing price caps on voice calls and SMS. Consumer prices for SMS, voice and data services have decreased by 60 to 75 per cent after the EU introduced regulation of the market.

The EU has also ensured that consumers receive a text message containing information on mobile prices when entering another EU Member State. Finally, there is also a requirement that consumers cannot receive a high bill for mobile data downloads without the consumer having agreed to download for more than EUR 60.

In June 2011, the European Commission published a proposal for a new roaming regulation.

Directive on the re-use of public sector information (PSI Directive)

Re-use of public sector information means using it in new ways by adding value to it, combining information from different sources, making mash-ups and new applications. Examples include real time traffic information and bus timetables together with maps downloaded to smart phones.

According to a survey conducted by the European Commission in 2011, the overall market size for PSI in the EU is estimated at EUR 40 billion. The most recent Commission study of how EU PSI rules are being applied in EU Member States shows that to realise the full potential of PSI for the EU economy, EU Member States must remove remaining barriers to re-use. Therefore, the European Commission is currently working on the review of the PSI Directive.

Commission webpage on Public Sector Information

Connecting Europe Facility (CEF)

Investment in broadband through the Connecting Europe Facility

The Commission has proposed an allocation of funds to increase investments from 2014 to 2020 in projects giving EU citizens and businesses access to high-speed broadband networks and digital services. The investments will help reach some of the Europe 2020 targets.

  • In 2020 all Europeans have access to an internet connection with a speed of 30 Mbps or above.
  • 50% or more of European households subscribe to internet connections of 100 or more Mbps.

The investments are expected to boost Europe’s competitiveness and productivity and to create new jobs.
The funding for the digital infrastructure is part of a larger investment fund – the Connecting Europe Facility, which also covers transport and energy. The improvements to the European net must ensure coherence in the European infrastructure and is one of the 12 key initiatives in the Single Market Act.

Revision of the directive on electronic signatures

Mutual use and recognition of electronic signatures across borders is an important precondition for the development of the digital single market and for citizens to take advantage of public online services.

For example, your life as an EU citizen could become much easier if you could use your electronic signature issued in your native EU Member State to securely identify yourself abroad. For example, this could be in the online tax system for the yearly tax reporting or perhaps to enrol your child in the local public kindergarten in the EU Member State you are currently living in.

However, the use of electronic signatures across borders is not yet widespread. Therefore, the Commission has initiated preparatory work to revise the electronic signatures directive.

Internet and telephone across the European borders
When talking on the phone or purchasing a book over the Internet, we do not always remain within the borders of our own country. Rather, it is increasingly common that a situation in the workplace necessitates a phone call abroad or that the cheapest way to get hold of a given book is to buy it online in another country.

For this reason, the EU is working to improve and standardise the terms and rights under which we trade or make use of ICT as European consumers.

Cheaper internet and reduced phone bills
One of the main objectives is to improve competition in European telecommunications markets, so that it becomes less expensive to for example call home from the holiday, and to ensure that everyone in the EU has access to the Internet.

Since 1998, the EU has completed several bouts of liberalisation of the European telecommunications market to ensure a more balanced competition between telecom operators and lower prices for consumers.

But ICT is not just about cheaper phone calls. The EU is also actively engaged in a broad spectrum of other areas such as online security, frequency policy and digital services in the EU Single Market.

The ICT sector as an engine for growth
The ICT sector in itself is a sector characterised by notable expansion and development, but it is also a sector with a potential to drive growth and efficiency in other sectors in Europe.

With a market value of EUR 660 billion per year, the ICT sector is directly responsible for five per cent of European GDP and four per cent of employment. Moreover, the sector contributes to overall productivity growth by as much as 20 per cent.

Europe's Digital Agenda
In 2010, the European Commission published its latest strategy for Information and Communication Technology (ICT): Europe's Digital Agenda

The overall objective of the Digital Agenda is to achieve sustainable economic and social benefits of a Digital Single Market based on fast and ultra-fast Internet and interoperable applications. The Digital Agenda also addresses how to include and activate the approx. 150 million Europeans who have never used the Internet.

Here you can find more information about the Digital Agenda and ICT in the EU