At the Digital Agenda Assembly (DAA) in Dublin, 20 June 2013, Kroes sang the praise of progress with the Digital Agenda for Europe (DAE) before concentrating minds on unfinished business, the proposal promised for the telecoms single market (SPEECH/13/559). The outline is worth a lengthy quote:
That's just to name some of the things we've achieved. But there's one thing left to do. One really important thing.
Because we have all these exciting new services on offer. From video-on-demand to virtual universities, cloud computing to teleconferencing; e-Health to the "Internet of Things".
They promise to pervade every sector of our economy, every domain of our life. But they all rely on, and are underpinned by, one thing: broadband networks. Networks that are fast, reliable, resilient. Connectivity based on openness, choice, and fair prices. Telecoms services that spread as wide as our single market, and make a reality of the borderless, limitless potential of the Internet itself.
Millions of Europeans use our single market to travel, trade, or transact across Europe. Citizens and businesses. Now they need the communications to match.
At the moment we don't have that. Telecoms operators are stuck in tiny national markets, with borders and barriers at every turn. Expanding means dealing with a tiresome patchwork of multiple systems: for licences, spectrum, numbering and more.
And that's bad news for consumers. With hundreds of providers in Europe, mostly you can only choose among 3 or 4. And it's too hard to communicate across borders. Quality is poor; there are few innovative services beyond basic phone calls; and prices are unfairly high. If I phone the town next door, within our single market, that shouldn't count as a costly "international" call.
And the mobile in your pocket should not be the last remaining reminder of our internal borders: they should have disappeared long ago.
This isn't a problem in the US or China. There, operators serve hundreds of millions, under a single set of rules. No wonder they are racing ahead of us. No wonder Europeans suffer from poorer connections and slower broadband. No wonder European players are losing out in almost every corner of the ecosystem. No wonder all the major internet players come from outside Europe, from social networks to device makers.
For one thing, we need net neutrality. Citizens must enjoy the full and open internet; startups and innovators must know their bright idea won't get blocked. I will ban such behaviour: it's unfair, untransparent, and anti-competitive. And I will safeguard net neutrality in Europe: for every European, on every device, on every network.
But a single market goes beyond that one issue. I want networks that genuinely work across Europe. Find every barrier to a true single market – and take them down, one by one. So it's just as easy to call and connect across borders as within them.
I plan to give operators a passport. So once you can operate somewhere in the EU, you can operate everywhere. Just like other sectors that get the single market boost, from banking to broadcasting.
I want to make it easier to plan and work—across multiple networks, across multiple borders, fixed and wireless.
And I want to get rid of the current tangle of different systems. So operators don't have the headache of 27 incompatible rules, regulators and remedies. And with a single consumer space, so you enjoy the same rights, wherever you're from, wherever your operator is from.
And a single market also means no roaming. The EU has already acted – meaning fewer barriers, more choice, and fairer prices for all. In just under two weeks, EU action will cut the cost of browsing when you travel by a further 35%.
But I want to go further. I want to take more steps against those annoying, unfair charges. And bring an end to roaming once and for all.
That's how I want to deliver a competitive, connected continent. Where operators can smash barriers and think big. Plan, bid and invest on a large scale. Think European and compete globally. And then every European can benefit from faster networks, better services, fairer prices.
But let me also be clear what we're not planning. We are not seizing sovereignty. Nor setting up some new EU super-regulator. We are not taking away governments' right to sell or auction spectrum, nor to keep the resulting funds. Some may enjoy centralisation or institution building for its own sake; I don't. I'm too pragmatic for that.
But what we are doing is taking the practical steps to boost our economy. And make our single market fit for the digital age. And, trust me, we need it.
So I am grateful to you for your work to support our digital agenda. What you've discussed over these two days matters to us all.
But, whatever you've been discussing, whichever workshops you've been attending, I'll bet they depend on broadband. And if you want our broadband to be better, faster, more resilient: then make sure your voice is heard. To national governments. To Members of the European Parliament. To Presidents and Prime Ministers. And they will all need to be reminded.
Getting this legislation won't be easy: but it is essential. To boost our economy, we need to become a connected, competitive continent. We need to be the integrated home of investment and innovation. We need a single market that communicates. So let's make that case together.