CEOs call for level playing field across Europe


23 Apr 2004

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Spam, digital rights management and online payment systems were the main issues dominating the debate between the heads of European telcos and EU Communications Ministers at the EU Informal Ministerial Conference on Broadband held yesterday at the Dundalk Institute of Technology.

Commenting afterwards on the discussion, communications minister Dermot Ahern TD said that the business leaders attending the meeting, who included Philip Rowley, president of AOL Europe and Ruud Huisman, CEO of Italy’s Tiscali, argued in favour of removing any significant obstacles to free trade in Europe.

“The CEOs want constant, regularly applied, transparent and open networks across Europe – a situation where they know with some certainty that the regulation is going to be equal across Europe,” said Ahern.

Referring to the growing threat of spam or unsolicited e-mail, Ahern said it could cause “large difficulties for the roll out of broadband and the Ministers were agreed that we should move much faster on this issue.”

Following the meeting, Martina King, managing director of Yahoo! UK and Ireland, declared herself “very optimistic” about the future of e-commerce in Europe. In an interview with siliconrepublic.com, she said the main talking points of the meeting with the Ministers were “how to secure a more vibrant and exciting broadband future and how Europe could compete in a global economy.”

King identified digital rights management – how to handle copyrighted material on the internet – as one of the big obstacles to the growth of broadband. “We have been working the same way for 30 years. We need to engage in finding solutions to address the challenges that exist with new media,” she said, adding: “The Ministers were very knowledgeable on this subject and keen to understand what we need to do.”

King felt that the Ministers had the “collective will” to minimise the legislation that stands in the way of progress but the significant question was “how long it would take to get there.”

The two-hour discussion between CEOs and Ministers was one element of a day-long meeting at which a number of issues were aired in relation to broadband including demand stimulation for broadband services and the progress being made across Europe in terms of rolling out broadband infrastructure.

EU Commissioner Erkki Liikanen said he was encouraged by the current rate of progress. “Broadband is growing very fast in Europe – we have achieved 80pc growth year on year. One country, Korea, is ahead of everywhere else but broadband in the EU, on average, is growing faster than it is in the US.”

By Brian Skelly

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