High-speed Internet, lower prices and unlocking the potential of unused spectrum waves for new services all feature in the EU's new strategy for growth and jobs, dubbed 'Europe 2020', according to a leaked document seen by EURACTIV.
The European Commission estimates that the EU's growth potential has been cut in half by the crisis and the new policy document speaks of both the "threat but also the opportunity" presented by emerging markets like China and India, whose ICT industries are leapfrogging the EU.
To address the EU's waning ICT influence, the EU will aim to boost levels of investment in research and development from their current 1.9% of the bloc's GDP to 3%.
More public funds
Public funding, according to the paper, will play a central role in increasing the EU's ICT competitiveness.
The document says the EU will try to tap into public money, like structural funds, to build Internet infrastructure where private investment is lacking.
With the help of the European Investment Bank, the EU will aim to leverage between €10 billion and €12 billion of additional private finance per year on the basis of €1 billion in European funds.
Industry sources warn that the Commission should not "crowd out" private investment and that the executive will have to ensure that the public authorities comply with the EU's state aid rules.
Commissioner Neelie Kroes' 'Digital Agenda' will aim to reduce barriers to high-speed Internet coverage in an effort to boost current sluggish uptake of broadband in Europe compared to other regions.
"The aim is to accelerate the roll-out of high speed Internet and to reap fully its economic and societal benefits," according to the strategy paper.
Though industry sources broadly support faster and more pervasive Internet access, the European Competitive Telecommunication Association warns that rolling out high-speed Internet should not encourage expensive and inefficient monopolies.
If history is anything to go by, future policy attempts for high-speed Internet will likely displease either small or large network operators, who have been engaged in a tug of war over access prices to Internet wires.
Both parties have also complained of legal uncertainty from the EU hampering investment in high-speed Internet.
In a speech to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona two weeks ago, Kroes tried to assure the industry that she would create "a predictable and transparent regulatory landscape".
The previous EU commissioner for ICT, Viviane Reding, had set the scene for a so-called Digital Dividend, whereby broadcasters' switchover from analogue to digital would unlock precious spectrum waves for more digital services.
The paper reiterates Reding's spectrum policy as a way to help the EU roll out high-speed Internet.
However, industry sources want the EU to step in before spectrum auctions at national level create even more fragmented markets.
The EU will also aim to tie up the digital market's many loose ends in online trade, the document reveals.
According to research done by the EU executive, online commerce has been stifled by payment difficulties and a subsequent lack of trust in online shopping.
60% of online purchases failed in an EU-backed test of 11,000 separate orders on cameras, CDs, books and clothes.