Christoph Steck /@christophsteck
Director of Public Policy and Internet at Telefónica
Last week’s summit of the Financial Times and ETNO was a great opportunity to hear from CEOs what the incoming European Commission needs to tackle to unleash the potential of the Digital Economy. Hardly ever before the expressed views were so uniform: Europe is lagging behind the USA and Asia in deployment of high-speed networks and digital services and will need to better embrace the digital revolution of our economies and societies. This will also mean that the European Institutions need to modernize their policies and focus their activities on what really matters to create investments, growth, competition and protect European consumers.
Let me share with you our vision. Telefonica believes that technology should be open to everyone. Therefore, we are convinced that to unleash the full potential of the Digital Economy an Open Internet will play a key role in the goal of boosting growth and employment in Europe.
Already a while ago, Telefonica anticipated the huge challenges created by the Digital Revolution and since then we have been advocating to policymakers and regulators how urgent is to shift their regulatory powers towards a new approach to create high-speed broadband networks and preserve an open and safe Internet experience for our customers and Internet users. We believe it is now time to take specific measures.
First of all, creating a Level Playing Field for all digital services across the Internet should be a priority. Our current regulatory frameworks were established nearly 20 years ago, based on a number of assumptions that have drastically changed. There has been a striking evolution in industry, technology and the way customers perceive and consume digital services. Existing regulations do no longer reflect market realities and regulators struggle to keep pace with developments. When we talk about Level Playing Field some people believe that we are asking for more regulation on others which are currently not heavy-regulated like our sector. This is not the case. What we are asking for is common sense and fair: two competing services should be both bound by the same rules. We believe that in many cases, due to increased competition by new digital services, many rules applied to our sector are not necessary anymore or can be replaced by ex-post competition supervision and not sector-specific ex-ante regulation.
Second, consumers need to have a “Portable Digital Life” and be empowered to control their digital lives in the same way as they do it offline. This is necessary because both, digital and real lives, are already seen as one by consumer. This means that policy need to address the obstacles that prevent people from accessing their digital life from different platforms and to switch between them. Services should be interoperable, to prevent “winner-takes-all” scenarios created by network effects of many digital services.
Finally, we need to guarantee that we grow “Digital Confidence”, which means that users have a safer Internet experience and trust in digital services. This would promote the use of digital services and guarantee consumer´s rights. There is a need for improving transparency and tools that will allow users to have full control of their privacy, as well as better protect their security when they are using the Internet.
Often, the debate about the right policies for the Digital Economy are boiled down into a simplistic “Telco vs. Internet” black-and-white view. This is absolutely not how we see it. We see ourselves as a key and essential part of the Internet ecosystem. Communication and broadband companies are the ones that provide access to the Internet to billions of customers worldwide and will connect the missing ones over the next years. We are used to strong competition in our markets and welcome new competitors. We are also cooperating on many occasions with Internet Service companies to give our customers a better digital experience. So, when we speak up and point to unfair regulatory situations, this is based on deep insight into the dynamics of these digital markets.
The Digital Economy is a great chance for our economies and societies. It is important that policymakers and regulators create forward-looking, smart policies that safeguard innovation and competition, protect consumers and let all companies and services compete on an equal footing.