Digital Agenda for Europe

Since 1995, information and communication technologies (ICTs) have driven productivity gains and growth in the EU[1]. The concept of ICTs covers a broad spectrum of technologies, ranging from information technology (IT) through telecommunications, broadcast media, and all types of audio and video processing and transmission to network-based control and monitoring functions. Over the past three decades, technological ‘convergence’ has been blurring the boundaries between telecommunications, broadcasting and IT. Smartphones, tablets and connected TV are the clearest examples of this phenomenon. Although linear broadcasting continues to be the principal medium of information distribution and entertainment in Europe, more and more audiovisual content is available on demand, while exponential growth in 4G internet connectivity - soon to step up to 5G standard - and the ‘internet of things’ (IoT), involving connected cars, wearable devices and sensors, gives the internet an increasingly ubiquitous dimension.

Legal basis

While the Treaties do not contain any special provisions for ICTs, the EU may take relevant actions within the framework of sectoral and horizontal policies, such as: industrial policy (Article 173 TFEU); competition policy (Articles 101-109 TFEU); trade policy (Articles 206 and 207 TFEU); the trans-European networks (TENs) (Articles 170-172 TFEU); research and technological development and space (Articles 179-190 TFEU); the approximation of laws (Article 114 TFEU); the free movement of goods (Articles 28, 30 and 34-35 TFEU); the free movement of people, services and capital (Articles 45-66 TFEU); education, vocational training, youth and sport (Articles 165 and 166 TFEU); and culture (Article 167 TFEU). These are all key elements for a Digital Europe.

Objectives

Following up on the Lisbon Strategy[2], the Digital Agenda for Europe[3] (DAE) was conceived as one of the seven flagship initiatives of the Europe 2020 strategy adopted by the Commission. Published in May 2010, it sets out to define the key enabling role that the use of ICTs will have to play if Europe wants to succeed in its ambitions for 2020. The Europe 2020 strategy underlined the importance of broadband deployment in the promotion of social inclusion and competitiveness in the EU. The DAE set broadband targets: (1) basic broadband coverage for 100% of EU citizens; (2) fast broadband by 2020: broadband coverage at 30 Mbps or more for 100% of EU citizens; (3) ultra-fast broadband by 2020: 50% of European households should have subscriptions above 100 Mbps. On 14 September 2016, in a communication on ‘Connectivity for a Competitive Digital Single Market — Towards a European Gigabit Society’[4], the Commission proposed, for the consideration of Parliament and the Council, to revise those targets to a gigabit connectivity in 2025 for all main socio-economic drivers such as schools, transport hubs and main providers of public services, as well as digitally intensive enterprises. At these speeds the internet evolves into a genuine tool for global communication composed of highly interactive, constantly connected and easily expandable sensors, processors and storage units, although if such connectivity targets are to be achieved a greater focus will be required on the mobile and satellite dimension[5], something the Commission is trying to achieve with its ‘5G for Europe Action Plan’[6].

Achievements

In coordination with the Global Internet Policy Observatory (GIPO), the Commission, on 22 April 2015, launched giponet.org, a platform to help make internet governance implementation more democratic and user-friendly[7].

As a result of Directive 89/552/EEC (the ‘TV Without Frontiers Directive’ (TVWFD)), updated by Directive 2007/65/EC (the ‘Audiovisual Media Services Directive’ (AVMSD)), and the ‘Regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services’ (Directive 96/19/EC and its revisions of April 2002 and November 2009), which opened up the telecommunications market to full competition as of 1 January 1998, the EU now has an advanced system of users’ rights and protections for consumers, including:

  • the 112 single European emergency number (Directive 2009/136/EC), the 116000 missing children helpline, the 116111 child helpline, and the 116123 emotional support helpline;
  • the right to change fixed-line or mobile operator within one working day while still retaining one’s original phone number, i.e. number portability (Directive 2009/136/EC);
  • lower prices for electronic communications[8], which will eventually lead to the end of roaming charges (by June 2017)[9];
  • comprehensive basic broadband coverage, mainly owing to developments in mobile and satellite broadband;
  • an EU top-level domain (TLD) (Regulation (EC) No 733/2002);
  • legislation on privacy (Directive 2009/136/EC) and data protection (Directive 95/46/EC), further improved by the new regulatory framework on data protection (Regulation (EU) 2016/679 and Directive (EU) 2016/680)[10]);
  • an online platform for dispute resolution between consumers and online traders[11].

In order to improve the consistency of national regulatory procedures, the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) (see Regulation (EC) No 1211/2009) provides for cooperation between national regulators and the Commission, promoting best practice and common approaches, while at the same time avoiding inconsistent regulation that could risk distorting competition in the single market in telecommunications. As regards spectrum management, the multiannual radio spectrum policy programme sets out policy directions and objectives for the strategic planning and harmonisation of the radio spectrum, in order to ensure that the internal market functions in Union policy areas involving spectrum use, such as electronic communications, research, technological development and space, transport, energy, and audiovisual policies. With regard to network and information security (NIS), the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) was established under Regulation (EC) No 460/2004, and its mandate was strengthened after the adoption of Parliament’s resolution of 16 April 2013[12]. Since 1999 there has been a series of multiannual safer internet programmes. On 6 July 2016, Parliament and the Council signed the directive concerning measures to ensure a high common level of network and information security across the Union.[13] Additionally, Parliament adopted a regulation making eCall technology a mandatory feature in all cars made after April 2018[14].

Role of the European Parliament

Parliament advocates a robust and advanced ICT policy and has been very active in the adoption of legislative acts in the area. It has also continuously helped to keep the focus on ICT issues, through own-initiative reports, oral and written questions, studies[15], workshops[16], opinions and resolutions, as well as through calls for greater coordination of national efforts for the development of pan-European services and EU support for ICT research and development[17].

Parliament has recalled the need to use the ‘digital dividend’ spectrum to achieve broadband for all EU citizens, and has stressed that further action is needed to ensure ubiquitous and high-speed access to broadband, as well as digital literacy and competences for all citizens and consumers[18]. It likewise stresses the importance of security in cyberspace[19] in order to ensure robust protection for privacy and civil liberties in general in a digital environment. At the same time Parliament strongly promotes technological neutrality, ‘net neutrality’ and ‘net freedoms’ for European citizens, as well as measures regarding access to or use of services and applications through telecommunications networks, on a basis of respect for the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens; such measures must also ensure that internet service providers do not degrade users’ ability to access content and applications and/or run services of their own choice[20].

Parliament is systematically consolidating these guarantees through legislation. It is at the forefront in ending roaming tariffs and setting network neutrality standards[21]. Parliament has initiated and completed important legislative work on the Directive on measures to reduce the cost of deploying high-speed electronic communications networks[22] and the Regulation on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market[23].

On 27 April 2016 Directive (EU) 2016/680[24] was adopted. It aims to guarantee an effective application of the protection of natural persons in relation to the processing of personal data as a fundamental right. Moreover, the EP and the Council have adopted Regulation (EU) 2016/679[25] on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data. This regulation aims to correct: fragmentation in the implementation of data protection across the Union; legal uncertainty; and a widespread public perception that there are significant risks to the protection of natural persons, in particular with regard to online activity.

Recently, Parliament successfully finalised the legislative work on reforming data protection framework and on cybersecurity rules (the directive concerning measures to ensure a high common level of network and information security across the Union (2013/0027(COD)).

Parliament proceeded with its own scrutiny of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) and subsequently declined to give its consent to the conclusion of the agreement, in a legislative resolution of 4 July 2012[26].

Parliament is closely monitoring the implementation by the Commission of the Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy roadmap and the 16 initiatives it is to deliver by the end of 2016. On 19 January 2016 Parliament adopted an own-initiative report, ‘Towards a Digital Single Market Act’ (2015/2147(INI))[27]. This report put the focus on the prevention of unjustified geo-blocking, the need for durable consumer protection applicable to both online and offline purchases, the improvement of cross-border parcel delivery, the removal of barriers to digital innovation, and the consistency of privacy and data protection regimes[28]. Parliament is currently doing extensive legislative work on the proposals presented as a follow-up to the DSM Strategy and the resolution ‘Towards a Digital Single Market Act’[29], addressing such issues as unjustified geo-blocking[30], cross-border parcel delivery[31], cross-border portability of online content services[32], a revision of the Consumer Protection Cooperation Regulation[33], audiovisual media services[34], contracts for the online and other distance sales of goods[35], and contracts for the supply of digital content[36].

[1] http://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/en/scoreboard

[2]Its aim was to make the EU ‘the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion’: see http://circa.europa.eu/irc/opoce/fact_sheets/info/data/policies/lisbon/article_7207_en.htm

[3] http://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/

[4](COM(2016) 0588), (COM(2016) 0587), http://ec.europa.eu/newsroom/dae/document.cfm?doc_id=17182

[5]See: ‘Streaming and Online Access to Content and Services’, a study prepared for the European Parliament’s Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, 2014, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/etudes/join/2014/492435/IPOL-IMCO_ET(2014)492435_EN.pdf, p. 31.

[6]http://ec.europa.eu/newsroom/dae/document.cfm?doc_id=17131

[7] http://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/en/news/how-can-we-help-you-get-more-involved-internet-governance

[8]Regulation (EU) No 531/2012, OJ L 172, 30.6.2012, p. 10.

[9]Regulation (EU) 2015/2120, OJ L 310, 26.11.2015, p. 1. In June 2015, the Commission, Parliament and the Council came to an agreement, which was then formally adopted in October 2015 by Parliament: see http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-5927_en.pdf, and http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/news-room/20151022IPR98802/End-in-sight-for-mobile-phone-%E2%80%9Croaming%E2%80%9D-fees-and-unequal-internet-access

[10]http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=OJ:L:2016:119:FULL&from=EN

[11]The platform is accessible at: http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/odr/ and additional information may be found at: http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/solving_consumer_disputes/non-judicial_redress/adr-odr/index_en.htm

[12]Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0103.

[13](2013/0027(COD)), Directive (EU) 2016/1148 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 July 2016 concerning measures for a high common level of security of network and information systems across the Union, OJ L 194, 19.7.2016, p. 1.

[14] http://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/en/news/ecall-all-new-cars-april-2018

[15] http://www.europarl.europa.eu/aboutparliament/en/0083c7a4db/Think-Tank.html#studies

[16] http://www.europarl.europa.eu/committees/en/events.html?id=workshops#documents

[17]Ubiquitous Development of the Digital Single Market, study prepared for the European Parliament’s Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, 2013, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/etudes/join/2013/507481/IPOL-IMCO_ET(2013)507481_EN.pdf

[18]OJ C 81 E, 15.3.2011, p. 45.

[19]OJ C 332 E, 15.11.2013, p. 22.

[20]OJ C 153 E, 31.5.2013, p. 128.

[21]Regulation (EU) 2015/2120, OJ L 310, 26.11.2015, p. 1.

[22]Directive 2014/61/EU, OJ L 155, 23.5.2014, p. 1.

[23]Regulation (EU) No 910/2014, OJ L 257, 28.8.2014, p. 73.

[24]Directive (EU) 2016/680, OJ L 119, 4.5.2016, p. 89.

[25]Regulation (EU) 2016/679, OJ L 119, 4.5.2016, p. 1.

[26]OJ C 349 E, 29.11.2013, p. 552.

[27] http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+REPORT+A8-2015-0371+0+DOC+PDF+V0//EN

[28]http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/news-room/20160114IPR09903/Stop-geo-blocking-and-boost-e-commerce-and-digital-innovation-says-Parliament

[29]Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0009.

[30]Proposal for a Regulation on addressing geo-blocking and other forms of discrimination based on customers’ nationality, place of residence or place of establishment within the internal market, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A52016PC0289

[31]Proposal for a Regulation on cross-border parcel delivery services https://ec.europa.eu/transparency/regdoc/rep/1/2016/EN/1-2016-285-EN-F1-1.PDF

[32]Proposal for a regulation on ensuring the cross-border portability of online content services in the internal market https://ec.europa.eu/transparency/regdoc/rep/1/2015/EN/1-2015-627-EN-F1-1.PDF

[33]Proposal for a regulation on cooperation between national authorities responsible for the enforcement of consumer protection laws (2016/0148(COD), http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/consumer_rights/unfair-trade/docs/cpc-revision-proposal_en.pdf

[34]Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2010/13/EU on the coordination of certain provisions laid down by law, regulation or administrative action in Member States concerning the provision of audiovisual media services in view of changing market realities (COM(2016) 0287), http://ec.europa.eu/newsroom/dae/document.cfm?doc_id=15948

[35]Proposal for a directive on certain aspects concerning contracts for the online and other distance sales of goods, COM(2015)0635 final – 2015/0288(COD), http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?qid=1450431933547&uri=CELEX:52015PC0635

[36]Proposal for a directive on certain aspects concerning contracts for the supply of digital content, COM(2015)0634 final – 2015/0287(COD), http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?qid=1450431933547&uri=CELEX:52015PC0634

Mariusz Maciejewski / Louis Dancourt / Boris Marschall

06/2017