Antonello Giacomelli, Italian Under-secretary of State of Economic Development Antonello Giacomelli.
The European Council has acknowledged, on several occasion, how important it is to complete the digital single market as a tool to promote growth and employment. President Juncker has identified digital economy as one of the new Commission’s priorities. In a letter he recently addressed to the President of the European Parliament Schultz and the President of the Italian Council of Ministers Renzi, he called for “a more ambitious reform of the telecommunications market”.
Citizens have high expectations as regards the reduction of roaming charges and ask for assurances for a truly open Internet, where traffic is treated in a non-discriminatory manner.
The European Parliament already voted on this legislative proposal.It is now up to the Council, and to all of us, to respond to the legitimate expectations of citizens and companies. That is why the Italian Presidency, from the very beginning, has given high priority to this proposal, by resuming the work which had already begun and carrying out a thorough technical examination within the Council.
Based on the comments of the Member States, we have made our outmost to seek a shared position. Nonetheless, we have to acknowledge that none of the compromise drafts, which had been developed at a technical level, has gathered enough consensus. Such drafts, including the last one – resolution 15923/14 – are significantly different from the positions of the single Member States, including Italy, that has always chosen to act as a neutral mediator under the Presidency rather than imposing its own point of view.
However, there is wide agreement within the Council on the need to give priority to the two key issues: net neutrality and roaming. Therefore, we wish to devote every effort to these two issues, until the end of our mandate. Nonetheless, it is clear to us that if we continue addressing these issues in a technical context we will hardly reach a satisfying result and we would risk losing the initial spirit of the proposal of a “connected continent”.
Hence, at a political level, we should take full responsibility and identify clear guidelines over TSMcentral aspects.
I am sure that net neutrality is a primary reference value for all of us.
Achieving an open, free, non-discriminatory net requires two conditions. First, an adequate regulation is needed, because simply stating the principle of net neutrality, without a regulation, would lead to its factual rejection. Second, a direct agreement between the operators and the OTT, without the institutions involvement, would raise a financial barrier to new entrants and would stop innovation, which has always been the driver of internet development.
In the light of these two considerations, we can conclude that the institutions should play an active and strong role. With this approach in mind, we propose to free the ongoing reflection from the conflict between operators’ and OTT’s interests, by focusing on the interest or, better, the right of the citizen-user, which should influence the positions of all economic actors. In other words, we believe that an adequate access to the Internet should be considered a universal service, a fundamental right, an essential good. The concept of universal service has developed and spread throughout European culture and history. Therefore Europe is the ideal promoter of an adequate access to the Internet as a fundamental right of every person, in a global context. Moreover, in my view, such approach has been evoked also by President Obama, who recently likened the Internet to water.
I would only like to add that this notion, which gives priority to the right of citizens, would actively engage all economic actors, both operators and providers of services and content, in the process of developing and implementing network infrastructure.
European citizens have very high expectations as regards roaming and do not understand a sort of customs duty in the form of a tariff. Operators as well need to know the precise timing in order to evaluate investments on networks and services. Ending the roaming within a reasonable time, in line with the terms of the European Parliament, maybe taking into account the difference between voice and data services, has represented and represents one of the priorities of the Italian Presidency. Unfortunately, an agreement has not been reached, despite the many attempts to reach a compromise or a shared position. The end of roaming could be significantly delayed with respect to times expected by European citizens. Such risk should be avoided and we all have the responsibility to avoid it. The Presidency will enhance its efforts but clearly only a strong political contribution by governments can break this deadlock.
Such are the basic principles and references on which I wish you will start working again from tomorrow at a technical level, in order to reach enough consensus to rapidly start a dialogue with the co-legislator on the single market of telecommunications.