Italian Presidency vows telecoms reform by end of 2014

Le Premier ministre italien Matteo Renzi à Bruxelles mars 2014. [Palazzo Chigi/Flickr]

Le Premier ministre italien Matteo Renzi à Bruxelles mars 2014. [Palazzo Chigi/Flickr]

Italy’s incoming presidency of the EU will focus on adopting the entire telecoms reform by the end of the year and will avoid splitting the package to put aside the most controversial issues, a member of the Italian government told EURACTIV. 

The reform of the telecoms sector, known as the ‘Connected Continent’, will be concluded by the end of the year, the Italian undersecretary in charge of the dossier, Antonello Giacomelli, said on the sidelines of last week’s EU Telecoms Council in Luxembourg.

“Our priority is to find a solution by the end of the year,” he said, adding that Italy will act as “a facilitator for a unitary and shared solution.”

He insisted that the package has been devised as “unitary” and therefore needs to stay as it is, ruling out that some controversial elements of the reform may be taken away, such as the net neutrality.

The commissioner who has proposed the reform, Neelie Kroes, cheered the Italian attitude. “The extreme clear line of the Italian presidency makes me confident we can make it” by December, she said at a press conference of the telecoms council.

“I am optimistic,” she replied to a journalist asking whether the Connected Continent can be finished by the end of 2014. “We have arguments enough to make clear that we can make it before the end of the year,” she added.

She also insisted that the package should be  fully adopted. “It is a package we should not split,” she reiterated at the conference.

Italy’s digital work programme

In line with Giacomelli’s statements, the package is the first item in the list of things to do for the incoming Italian presidency when it comes to digital matters.

The digital work programme of the next EU presidency, which will start in July, underlines that it “will focus its work on the legislative proposals related to the Connected Continent package”.

The programme also includes, as top issues, progress on a “high common level of network and information security” and on the directive dealing with the accessibility and usability of the Internet, notably of public administration’s websites.

The incoming presidency is also committed to work on boosting super-fast broadband networks “via the adoption of pan-European common initiatives supporting public and private demand.”

Global internet governance and the role of the European Union in the delicate process of reducing US clout – while keeping the Internet open and not regionalised – will also be among the issues that will engage the Italians.

Big data, open data and the cloud will be addressed by the presidency from the standpoint of “Europe competitiveness” and “for public sector efficiency”, rather than from the usual privacy and data protection-driven perspective that has so far dominated the EU debate.

Italians will also confirm their penchant for the space sector, where the country is among the European leading nations, in terms of technologies and companies involved.

The work programme underscores that it “will highlight the importance of the technologies of connectivity, included the space one”.  

The European Commission proposed last September a wide reform of the telecoms sector intended to kick-start the underperforming European telecoms sector and incentivise investment in ultra-fast broadband networks.

Brussels wants to create a single market for telecoms in Europe. The sector still operates largely on the basis of the 28 national markets.

Under the Commission's plan, the single market for telecoms will be ending roaming surcharges for mobile services abroad, better coordinating radio spectrum allocation, protecting the neutrality of the internet (although granting higher discretionary power to internet service providers) and raising consumer protection.

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