Kroes highlights broadband inequality ahead of vote on telecoms single market

As the European Parliament gets ready to vote on single market regulation for the European telecoms industry next week, Neelie Kroes is building up momentum by highlighting how such regulation stands to benefit the market in years to come and claiming that the biggest border to such changes "is in our minds".

Neelie Kroes - EC vice president

This week the vice president of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda highlighted the inequality of broadband access across the European Union, noting that Europe's 400 million Internet users face a "geographic lottery" regarding the price and speed of broadband, and the range of services available.

"There is no single market for Internet and that has to change," said Kroes. "There is no good reason why one person should pay over four times more than another in Europe for the same broadband."

Citing four new studies* carried out by the Commission, Kroes also noted that 66 per cent of people do not even know what broadband speed they have signed up for. On average, consumers also only get 75 per cent of the broadband speed they sign up for.

"We need to strengthen and harmonise consumer rights as proposed in our Connected Continent package. And it's time for companies to work together to find better ways to advertise and explain their products. That's the reaction to these findings that I am hoping for," added Kroes.

In a separate speech delivered to the Handelsblatt conference TK-Gipfel 2014, Kroes also stressed that the single market is "Europe's crown jewel", but that communications is still limited by national borders.

"When they travel, one quarter of people turn their phones off, one half switch off mobile data," she said. "What a waste; you may as well have packed a brick."

Next week's vote, if favourable, would certainly be a watershed moment for Europe: the two headline proposals are the abolition of roaming charges and the introduction of net neutrality, although the latter is proving controversial because proponents of the open Internet say the rules would still allow network operators to charge more for certain "specialised services".

The European Parliament's Industry Committee backed the proposals at a meeting last week, although the fact that the package was adopted by 30 votes to 12, with 14 abstentions, also indicates that opinion is far from unanimous on all elements of the regulation.

*The studies are the Broadband Internet Access Costs (BIAC) study; the @SamKnows study that measures the difference between the Internet speed you pay for and the Internet speed you get; the Eurobarometer survey measures user perceptions of telecoms services; and the Communications Committee (COCOM) report.

For more:
- see the speech by Neelie Kroes here
- see this European Commission press release

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