At Hubforum in Paris last week, Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission and Digital Agenda Leader, advocated for reform of Europe’s digital economy. Ms. Kroes stated, “Europe can't afford to fall behind [in the information and communications technologies sector]. But we are.”
Ms. Kroes has been a vocal advocate for reform of Europe’s digital environment, and she has highlighted the negative effects the current regulatory scheme on broadband deployment, investment, information sharing, and innovation. In August, she stated, "today’s guidance to regulators just doesn’t give businesses – old or new – the certainty they need to make investments. It’s time to change." She advocated for widespread reform in order to keep Europe from “losing the global race to build fast fixed broadband connections.”
Ms. Kroes has acknowledged the “regulatory mess” in Europe, and urged reform based on the triumphs of the telecommunications and technology industries in the U.S. She cited Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon as exemplars of success in innovation and business, and noted that there are no European companies among the global leaders of the digital marketplace. She stated, “I don't want us to be the US . . . But I do think we could learn from them, celebrate risk and support innovation.”
Free State Foundation scholars have previously reported that Europe lags behind the U.S. in the telecommunications and technology sector, and FSF has endorsed the benefits of deregulatory policies in the U.S. compared to overregulation in countries like France.
While the U.S. certainly has more work in this regard to do itself, regulatory reform is in order for Europe, since reports project that its telecom sector will suffer a 10% revenue dip in the decade from 2006–2016. In contrast, the telecom sector in the U.S. is projected to grow by 35% over the same period.
Last week Ms. Kroes announced that European Union leaders plan to meet later in the month to discuss reform of Europe’s digital marketplace. Some items on the agenda are whether and how to harmonize telecommunications standards in Europe, and how to promote innovation that starts and stays in the EU.
Europe is right to look to reducing regulation to resolve these issues and to foster growth and innovation in business and broadband development as well as investment in the ICT sector. Hopefully, Ms. Kroes can lead the EU to become a “connected continent” by bringing EU policies more in line with less regulatory policies that prevail in nations like the U.S.