The fibre networks can best be illustrated as the freeways of the future digital society

Digitalisation | 07-12-2015

The Stockholm Region welcomes the consultation of the EU Commission and the opportunity now given to communicate to the Commission our views and experiences on the broadband goals after 2020 for the EU and for the Stockholm Region – and also what measures that can be taken by the EU in order to ensure that everyone can profit from the digital economy and the digital society. This is the opinion from the Stockholm Region regarding the European Commission’s Public Consultation on the Needs for Internet Speed and Quality Beyond 2020.

The EU and its member states are currently at a critical crossroads regarding how to enhance the incentives for increasing investments in fibre networks, and, not least, how to ensure that access to these networks can be provided on open and competition neutral terms in order to create a free and fair competition. The fibre networks can best be illustrated as the freeways of the future digital society and an increasing demand for higher speeds can be expected as the fibre networks are expanded and the accessibility to fibre network broadband is increased. EU’s target after 2020 should be symmetrical high-speed objectives and 1 Gbit/s.

As only fibre technology fulfils the requirements of symmetrical speeds, the EU should reconsider its position on technological neutrality. This applies especially with regard to state aid, in order to ensure that publically financed network infrastructure is secured for the future and, when needed, can be used also by the public sector’s future welfare services, such as transmitting high resolution images within telemedicine.

Access to high speed broadband is crucial for society and the matter is consequently no longer an issue in the interest of only a limited number of players within telecom. The fibre networks are yet insufficiently expanded in all of Europe and an expansion cannot be enforced through regulatory intervention. A main issue in connection with the escalating expansion of fibre cables and its gradual replacing of copper networks is how to avoid that a single player gains control of the fibre infrastructure, in the same way as has been the case with copper infrastructure. Infrastructural competition among local players in Sweden has shown to have a positive impact on the former incumbent’s fibre expansion all over the country.

As new fibre networks are being expanded, a unique opportunity is provided to separate the basic infrastructure from the services. The EU should therefore support the emergence of non-vertically integrated players, such as municipalities and regions, and while reviewing the EU acquis, consider particularly the future finances of the public sector and the welfare profits in a digital society. The EU should therefore promote that municipalities and public sector as a whole can use one and the same fibre network on which digital services can be procured. Such a scenario would endorse the economizing of resources within publicly financed activity and would at the same time also serve the purpose of promoting competition, innovations and development of services by giving numerous players the opportunity to participate in the future digital production. It is also imperative that the information possessed by the public sector is not allowed to be ”locked up” in the bundled offers of vertically integrated operators. The information within the public sector can most likely be expected to carry a great socioeconomic value by forming an impetus for innovation and service development. Accordingly, the EU should ensure that the control and disposal of public information remain in public possession so that everyone can access it as open data.

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