EU pushes for single telecoms market

Creating a single telecoms market in Europe and cutting the cost of doing business over the Internet could boost the region’s economy by 4 percent by 2020, the European Commission will tell EU leaders this week.

The push from the European Union’s executive, when EU leaders meet on October 24-25, comes as Neelie Kroes, the EU’s telecoms commissioner, makes a fresh attempt to overhaul the bloc’s telecoms sector.

Following Brussels’ success in curbing the cost of using mobile phone use, she now wants to cap the price of cross-border fixed-line calls in Europe, where the commission says technology and telecommunications make a smaller contribution to the economy than in the United States or China.

Kroes also wants EU veto power over national auctions of mobile spectrum, and to make it easier for operators to charge companies such as Google more for carrying heavy loads of data at high speeds.

But her blueprint needs the blessing of 28 EU governments before it can become law. Time is running out because lawmakers in the European Parliament, who also need to sign off on the law, break up in April for elections in May.

In a letter late last month to EU leaders, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso spelt out his priorities in the sector.

“Digital services and telecommunications are crucial drivers of growth and productivity across all sectors of our economies,”

he wrote.

“However, we are not yet getting the most out of the potential for our single market in telecommunications and online and in these industries the EU is losing ground to our international competitors.”

In a report that will be presented to EU leaders, the Commission will outline the potential benefits.

“By 2020, Europe could add 4 percent to its GDP by stimulating the fast development of the digital single market,” officials write in the report, seen by Reuters.

Public authorities could cut costs by 15-20 percent by moving to e-government, they add.

Barroso’s drive may be greeted with skepticism. Kroes has been criticized by national regulators who are concerned about losing power to Brussels, and companies have also been lukewarm.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by John O’Donnell, John Stonestreet)

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EU pushes for single telecoms market