What the EU can and can’t do on 112 emergency services

In the last 12 months we have seen several tragedies that many people believe could have been prevented by better caller location systems being used as part of emergency services systems.

Many caller location systems are indeed out of date, and the leaders responsible for changing that are from national governments. At the request of national governments this remains their legal responsibility, not the EU’s.

Here are the full details. The European Commission has nothing to hide.

"Member States are responsible to set caller location criteria and the Commission is urging them to bring these criteria in line with the technological solutions available on the market. Since it’s the sole responsibility of the Member States authorities the Commission does not have the power to set the criteria. This has been recognised also by the European Parliament. In its recent opinion on the Connected Continent proposal IMCO committee has proposed to enhance competences of the Commission."

Further information

  • The Universal Service directive allows for the adoption by the Commission of technical implementing measures which provide effective access to emergency services. However, these technical implementing measures cannot cover the adoption of caller location criteria as this power was expressly entrusted to competent authorities of the Member States.
  • The Commission keeps the need of improvement of caller location high on its agenda. In the COCOM reports, based on the data gathering from Member States, the Commission is gathering the data on caller location requirements in Member States, recognising the need for improving caller location and reminding Member States of their obligation.
  • In this context, last year, in reply to the letter of the Romanian minister for health, Mr Nicolaescu, Vice-President Kroes informed on the need for national authorities to lay down caller location criteria. In particular she informed on the ongoing work in CEPT (European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations) on this topic which is supported by the Commission
  • In the case of Lithuania the Commission currently investigates the availability of caller location
  • In response to the rising demand for more accurate caller location and more efficient emergency relief intervention, the CEPT set up the dedicated Project Team Emergency Services (PT ES) which brings together national emergency services experts in order to look into the technical aspects of the implementation of caller location accuracy solutions. The Commission welcomes the stated goal of PT ES to provide a report on caller location accuracy and reliability criteria. This report may contain technical recommendations which aim at the implementation of higher accuracy and reliability by the relevant national authorities. Therefore, the Commission is strongly supporting the technical work undertaken by CEPT on caller location accuracy and reliability criteria.
  • The Commission proposed already to include the analysis of caller location criteria in the 2014 BEREC work programme because in most Member States the NRA’s are competent in establishing caller location accuracy and reliability requirements in relation with electronic communication service providers, in particular MNOs. BEREC accepted the item on its work programme following this proposal.
  • The Commission also takes note of the IMCO proposal regarding the TSM amendments vesting the Commission with the power of adopting delegated act concerning caller location

Q & A to answer some of the most frequent questions that arise on this issue

  • The Commission is not planning to adopt mandatory EU level caller location criteria?

According to Article 26 of the Universal Service Directive the Commission can adopt technical implementing measures but these cannot cover criteria for accuracy and reliability of the caller location provided. The power to define such criteria is expressly entrusted to competent authorities from Member States. Establishing criteria for the accuracy and reliability of caller location would provide substantive rules to Article 26 which goes beyond the meaning of technical implementing measures which the Commission is empowered to adopt.

The amendments of the European Parliament’s IMCO committee to the TSM proposal recognised this lack of competence by expressly providing for new competences for the Commission, including the right to adopt caller location criteria. It remains to be seen whether this will be adopted in the final version.

  • Why the Commission have started no infringement proceedings on 112 since 2010?

Legally speaking caller location is available in all member states, thanks to the strong enforcement efforts of the Commission in 2006-2010. Currently the caller location requirements have to be set by Member States, and according to the information reported to the Commission, in case of mobile networks this is Cell ID which has a radius between 100meters and 10 km. Currently the Commission does not have legal basis to force Member States to adopt more accurate caller location criteria, however it supports the CEPT in drafting a guidance document to help spread more accurate location technologies.

  • Why is CEPT preparing the technical assessment of caller location technologies and not the Commission or BEREC

The CEPT initiative started in 2012 and gathered a significant pool of experts on 112 from EU and EEA member states. Furthermore, a special project team - Project Team Emergency Services (PT ES) - was set up in April 2013 to provide the technical expertise for drafting the technical report on caller location. There is no need to duplicate this work as the task of PT ES is advancing in a satisfactory way. Commission experts are attending the PT ES work.

  • Who are represented in the CEPT project team? Why aren’t solution providers and stakeholders represented?

The drafting rights in the CEPT project team are exercised by the CEPT members. These are represented by national experts on emergency services. The goal, structure and content of the report is decided by these experts. It is up to the Project Team Emergency Services to decide at what stage of the work will invite the emergency services (demand side for caller location), electronic communication service providers (supply side for caller location) and solution providers (supply side for caller location technologies). This does not mean that these stakeholders cannot contribute to the work of PT ES. Given the vested interests of these groups of stakeholders, and the need for an objective, technological neutral assessment of the available technologies, it is considered that such a staged approach would fit the best the nature of the analysis.

More elements for your own info

  • Legal basis
  • Directive 2009/136/EC amended Article 26 on the Single European emergency call number of the Universal Service Directive 2002/22/EC by extending the obligations of Member States regarding access to emergency services. Article 26 paragraph 5 reinforces the obligation to provide caller location: “Member States shall ensure that undertakings concerned make caller location information available free of charge to the authority handling emergency calls as soon as the call reaches that authority. This shall apply to all calls to the single European emergency call number “112”. Member States may extend this obligation to cover calls to national emergency numbers. Competent regulatory authorities shall lay down criteria for the accuracy and reliability of the caller location information provided.” Furthermore, in accordance with paragraph 7, the Commission may adopt technical implementing measures to ensure effective access to “112” services in the Member States.
  • Commission action
  • The provisions on caller location is subject to the Commission’s scrutiny in the compliance assessment of the notified legislation. In addition to the legislation notified via the formal channels, the data gathering exercise which was conducted on the basis on the 112 COCOM Questionnaire gives further clarification on the status of transposition of the revised provisions. 2 years after the transposition deadline the vast majority of member states failed to report accuracy and reliability criteria implemented by their respective NRAs. According to the COCOM’s Report on the Implementation of 112, automatic caller location information provided to emergency centres is currently limited to Cell-ID only. This technology may be deemed inaccurate (its accuracy could range to several km in some areas) and with little value in locating callers in need of assistance. On the other hand, in other part of the world high-accuracy location is being already implemented. In the United States for a large majority of calls made to the North-American emergency number 911 since the regulatory authority (FCC) has defined caller-location accuracy requirements for e911 (For network-based location solutions: 100 meters for 67 per cent of calls, 300 meters for 95 per cent of calls; For handset-based location solutions: 50 meters for 67 per cent of calls, 150 meters for 95 per cent of calls.)
  • Problem definition
  • The EGEA meetings held in 2012 pointed out the fact that caller location accuracy and reliability requirements in Europe are well below what the technical possibilities are currently allowing for in a cost efficient manner. Based on this input the Commission organised a dedicated workshop on caller location accuracy and reliability criteria with the participation of Member States experts, technical solution providers and MNOs. The goal of the workshop was to build common understanding on requirements for accuracy and reliability of caller location information.
  • The conclusion of the workshop was that there is a need for a demand side analysis where Member States should look into the requirements of their own emergency organisations on accuracy and reliability of caller location information. This analysis is closely linked to the capacity of information processing of the PSAPs. Such analysis has to be backed by a supply side analysis looking into MNO’s possibilities/plans on provision of services of accuracy and reliability of the caller location information.
  • The technology on both sides is offered by the solution providers. The Commission has strong signals that high-accuracy location technology is available in the market, ready to be deployed. In term of implementation of these technologies, the roles are share between the private sector (MNOs) – delivering the data –, and the public sector (Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) and the emergency system network) – reading the data. As in the case of eCall implementation of new technologies entail investments in technological upgrade on both sides, electronic communication service providers and PSAPs

  • Next steps
  • In response to the rising demand for more accurate caller location and more efficient emergency relief intervention, the CEPT set up the of the dedicated Project Team Emergency Services (PT ES) which brings together national emergency services experts in order to look into the technical aspects of the implementation of caller location accuracy solutions. The stated goal of PT ES is to provide a report on caller location accuracy and reliability criteria. This report may contain technical recommendations which aim at the implementation of higher accuracy and reliability by the relevant national authorities.
  • At this point DG CONNECT services’ involvement is to incentivise Member States’ experts (for instance the Expert Group on Emergency Access) to actively participate in the works of PT ES.
  • The CEPT report could be the basis of the work item in BEREC. Therefore the Commission proposed to include the analysis of caller location criteria in the 2014 BEREC work programme because in most Member States the NRA’s are competent in establishing caller location accuracy and reliability requirements in relation with electronic communication service providers, in particular MNOs. BEREC accepted the proposal, as it would be the appropriate fora to evaluate the implementation of technological upgrade in public finances systems of the PSAPs and emergency system networks.
  • TSM amendments in IMCO

The IMCO proposal provides at art 26(7):

"In order to ensure the effective access to "112" services in the Member States, the Commission, having consulted BEREC, shall be empowered to adopt delegated acts in accordance with Article 37a concerning caller location criteria and key performance indicators on access to 112." – which would allow the Commission to adopt EU-wide caller location criteria.

Lithuanian case investigation

  • The Commission was informed, via two citizen complaints, as well as from press, about a recent tragic event leading to a loss of life on 21 September 2013 in the Panevezys district. The Commission has written with concerns to the Lithunian Governments and is waiting for the translation of the reply from the Lithunaian governments (as of 10 Feb)
Why Brussels is connecting, not dropping the call

My long response here to the perspectives offered on Friday 13 September by Mario Mariniello (@BruegelMario)

My thoughts are in italics on his article (below in bold):

If Europe had a genuine single digital market, every citizen and company could subscribe to any telecom operator active on the Continent. Pan-European operators could compete across different countries. New technologies would be profitable and rapidly deployed. High-speed access to the Internet would be available to all.

»> This is generally true. But it does not necessarily follow that a digital single market would deliver high speed internet access to all. The ability to easily buy from iTunes no matter where you are does not guarantee your local telecoms company will roll out fibre to a rural village. But yes, less barriers helps spread innovation and networks.

Unfortunately, the long-awaited telecom package unveiled Wednesday evening by Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes will not get Europe there—or at least not as quickly as some hoped.

»> No, it won’t – because it’s not a digital single market package. A Telecoms Single Market is only the core of a wider digital single market, and the terms are not interchangeable. Telecoms are only 9% of the European digital economy. It’s the key and enabling 9%, but we aren’t even promising to complete the single market for that 9%. We’ve spent 26 years already trying to do that and it’s really hard and slow work. So, no this package was never, ever going to deliver this wider single market, and all our other existing proposals to do with eID, eProcurement and eCommerce will continue to move forward through the European institutions.

Achieving a single market for digital services requires a bold and coherent strategy. The European Commission should make clear that it prioritizes end-customers, whether they are citizens or businesses, for whom telecommunications is a primary means of fostering social cohesion within Europe and enhancing economic growth. More clarity on telecom policy would also spur investment and competition, to the benefit of European consumers.

»> Yes, absolutely. Neelie Kroes made that exact commitment to the European Parliament on 31 May. We emphasise again and again that this is a package, not a menu that the interested parties can pick and choose from. But you cannot prioritise “end-customers” to the exclusion of others, because then you end up with no new networks. The networks do not build and pay for themselves, and unlike lucky countries like Australia, the government isn’t stepping in to foot the bill. Therefore companies must build them and customers must ultimately pay for them. Leaving companies without incentives, space and certainty to build new networks would be a disaster for everyone, especially, eventually end-users.

Such clarity is absent in this week’s reform package. The legislation was adopted without prior public consultation, creating speculation that the text was shaped by behind-the-scenes political pressure. The result can hardly be called a milestone in the path to a single digital market.

» This consultation claim is false. The proposed regulation is built out of three years of public and private consultations, many new Europe-wide independent studies and with the direct input of more than 1000 people in 2013 alone.  More consultation wouldn’t change the content of the package because the answers are clear, and the need to act now is clear.  Further consultation or delay would simply mean a 2.5 year delay in implementation of a legal reform, according to our best estimates. By that stage, the chance to ensure EU-wide net neutrality would probably be gone, and Europe would have slipped too far behind in 4g to catch-up globally, to give two examples. Moreover innovations in the ways we consulted in 2011 and 2012 did not yield the results we hoped for. CEOs were given the chance in 2011 to put forward their own investment proposals. The process didn’t work, because while many stakeholders are very good at complaining, or advancing their own narrow interest, there simply isn’t another comprehensive and coherent plan available. Every other configuration is too slow, politically impossible, and imbalanced because it favours one group over another and so on.   And the bottom line is we developed this package because national leaders asked us to in March. They wanted a package agreed by October 2013 so we met their deadline by agreeing it on September 12. When 27 (now 28) democratically elected leaders asked you to do something, you do it. And there is nothing undemocratic about doing it.

» There is never clarity in telecoms. It is the most complicated part of the single market – often more complicated than the geekiest of financial topics. If you want clarity, you need to find another field. Clarity is usually hot air in this field – more nice words the EU can’t live up to, or which produce so many undesired or unintended consequences that the objective is defeated. So clarity is not an end in itself. And as documents like our “Plain Language Guide” to the regulation make clear, there are ways to engage with an understand the topic and the proposals themselves, if you want to get beyond the press release but are not a legal or telecoms expert.

The Commission proposal only mildly addresses the issue of market segmentation, for instance. The creation of a single European regulator and the EU-level allocation of wireless spectrum would be the most straightforward way to overcome national fragmentation and promote the establishment of truly pan-European telecom operators.

»> Great and we fully agree. But the Member States have made clear they will not approve anything like those proposals in the short and medium term. So we could write it down on paper if you want, and waste three years debating it, but Neelie Kroes wants concrete results in 2014 and has focussed the package on areas where that could really be achieved.

Instead, the Commission’s proposal mostly relies on an “authorization system” under which operators doing business abroad would be regulated by their home regulator. This is no guarantee of enhanced competition, particularly if regulators are subject to home-country political pressure to back national champions at the expense of customers in host countries.

» This is a basic misunderstanding of the proposed system and the existing framework.  The proposal doesn’t “rely” on a single authorisation – that is one of around 20 significant elements of the package. Secondly there are never any guarantees of enhanced competition, so this hardly makes the 2013 proposal a pre-determined failure. Thirdly, it’s illegal to back national champions or indeed anyone at the expense of competitors or customers. If this were to play out in reality, the Member States and possibly the companies would find themselves in court or subject to other Commission competition action.

Likewise, the Commission is merely attempting to coordinate national spectrum auctions instead of encouraging EU-level auctions. Under this week’s proposal, the Commission will retain a veto right if a licensing process creates barriers to the internal market. Yet this is still far inferior to pan-European auctions, which would encourage mobile operators to compete at a continental level rather than merely at a national one.

»> EU-wide spectrum licenses are the right ideal, and not possible to achieve in the short-term. The package would be immediately stopped by the Council if this were included.

One of the Commission’s flagship initiatives—to cap wholesale roaming fees—falls similarly short in this week’s package. Earlier drafts proposed cutting roaming fees by up to 90% through the introduction of a €0.03 per minute cap on voice calls and €0.015 per megabyte for data transmission.

» This is a misunderstanding of all drafts of the proposals, it confuses means with ends, and leaves out the key point that wholesale fees will be cut by up to 67% (for data),  on 1 July 2014. It was never a case of 90% versus 0%. More importantly though, price caps (on their own) are fundamentally not a full solution to the roaming issue. But any other alternative is necessarily more complicated and difficult to explain. Why? A cap will never remove a premium, it can only reduce it. Also because there are such huge retail price differences between Member States, the caps are a blunt instrument that affects each company differently. That does not mean they are not useful. It simply means that they have only a limited role in an effort to push roaming out of the market. That is why you need other measures like those agreed in 2012 (the decoupling measure that allows customers to abandon their usual operators while travelling) and the one proposed in Sept 2013 – namely to allow operators to form alliances to lower wholesale prices within the alliance to the point where they offer “roam like at home” packages from 2014 and ensure that a profit it still possible (why would they offer it if they can’t many any profit? Answer is they would not offer it; while it’s not legal to force them to sell at a loss.)

Roaming fees are high in Europe because customers cannot “punish” a foreign operator that is charging too much for accessing its network. They can only subscribe—or not subscribe—to telecom operators in their home country. So regulating roaming fees makes sense if competition in the wholesale roaming market cannot be guaranteed.

» Firstly, the 2012 Roaming Regulation solves the problem described here (the “decoupling” system that gives customers to the full opportunity to punish any operator that is overcharging them). But this is not the real source of the problem. Roaming prices are high because companies invented a system in the 1990s to turn these services into a cash cow. The premiums we saw when data was 6 euros per megabyte and SMS one euro a message, were never part of the original roaming system when it first became possible to call while abroad, where premiums tended to be about 33% above the domestic price of a given country.

While no breach of competition law has been proven, it is evident that the prices offered in second era of charges were not related to real cost or real value-added. Terrible as they were, the use of inflated wholesale fees is a symptom of a broken system; it is not the broken system itself.  The broken system is one were operators profit from a creating a false scarcity and an imagined value-add, instead of profiting from the plenty that technological progress enables and from the fact that people love their smartphones and are desperate to use them if given half a fair-chance. The thinking behind roaming premiums not only has no place is a European single market, it creates the basis for an unsustainable overall business model, as well as a rip-off to the actual traveller. In an environment of low investment, high debt, decreasing market capitalisation and decreasing revenues for many operators – that broken business model is the real problem. We have to take the crutch of roaming away, and either give incentives or force operators into a different ways of working.  If we don’t do that, the problem will not be those roaming rip-offs, it will be a telecoms sector that becomes the next banking sector, dragging the rest of us down with them as they fail.

In the Commission’s final proposal, however, these limits have been dropped. Instead, the proposal promotes the creation of “multilateral roaming agreements”: Two operators in such an arrangement would treat each others’ customers largely as their own, and charge roaming fees accordingly. But cooperation agreements may be viewed with suspicion by antitrust authorities, which could make operators less eager to participate.

» This is not accurate. There is a 67% cut to data wholesale roaming price caps in 2014. But that is beside the point. There is no profit basis for operators to behave in the way described. If they tried to offer “roam like at home” (the necessary criteria for benefiting from the new alliance possibility) at high or current wholesale rates, they would simply lose money. The only way to benefit from the alliance is to mutually agree much much lower prices. That is all machinery - the consumer doesn’t really care how they do it, so long as their domestic plan changes so that it works everywhere in Europe at no extra cost.

The Commission’s approach will also affect so-called “alternative roaming operators,” which are operators to which mobile customers can separately subscribe when using their devices outside their home country. Brussels previously endorsed this business model as a way to contain roaming costs, but under this week’s proposal, operators in multilateral roaming arrangements would not be forced to give alternative roaming operators access to their networks. This would make it risky for such operators to enter the market, which could open further possibilities for anticompetitive abuses.

» It’s either one or the other. Either the new alliances will work – in which case we have achieved your aim of no roaming. Or they won’t, in which case the pro-competitive “alternative roaming operator” system will work as a fantastic back-up. But you can’t claim there would cancel each other out.

The Commission, in other words, recognizes the existence of a market failure and announces that excessive roaming fees will be slashed. But in the final proposal, it has introduced more uncertainty than there was before.

» What the Commission has done is give companies more options about how to get to the same destination: no roaming premiums. This is a position carefully crafted with and strongly supported by the Competition department. Let’s also not forget that Kroes is a former Competition Commissioner.

The proposal’s approach to net neutrality does not provide for much more certainty, either. The Commission proposes harmonization of the relevant European legislation, leaving open the possibility for operators to offer different levels of service quality at different prices, provided the principle of an Internet open to all is preserved.

»> I am not sure how an iron-clad guarantee for access to the full and open internet in every single internet subscription is adding to uncertainty. 96% of Europeans have no legal protection today of their right to access the full and open internet. But what is certain is that if the Commission did not act now, then there would be several and perhaps a dozen different national laws passed in the coming years that deal with open internet protections in different ways. That is the opposite of what is needed in the single market and the most inefficient and uncertain system of all.

Economic theory suggests that price or quality discrimination are not necessarily bad for customers. Varying the price of Internet services in line with their burden on network capacity might enable more efficient allocation of Web traffic. So the Commission’s proposal is probably correct on substance.

» Thank you. It is also correct at a practical level. The reality is that each network and technology and generation of a given technology is different. There simply isn’t a way to guarantee everyone the same speed or the same price of internet in Europe, even if everyone agreed that was a good idea. The very best law that is enforceable is one that ensures no one suffers because of their given content choices, and that everyone’s one to the full internet is guaranteed at all times.

Yet price discrimination could lead to antitrust abuses: Operators could, for instance, charge mobile users more for using services, such as Skype or Google Talk, that represent a competitive threat. The success of the net-neutrality regulation will therefore depend on national regulators’ and antitrust authorities’ ability to identify anticompetitive behaviour and enforce competition law in a timely manner.

»> That is not accurate. If you wanted a guaranteed higher speed for Skype, you could agree to pay more. But you could not be charged more for your desire to use Skype and your Skype could not be slowed down because you chose it over another competing service. You would have to receive the very best Skype that you chosen internet connection allows. And if you didn’t get it, not only could you walk away from the contract at no cost, but the ISP and the country in question could be taken to court by the European Commission, depending obviously on the severity, scale and duration of the offence.

The Commission’s proposal introduces some positive changes, but it is too coy. Above all, it fails to foster the development of a new digital era in Europe, which would bring certainty and confidence to consumers and to the industry.

»> Investors and consumers tend to disagree. The large majority of investor reports think this will have a positive impact (not all of these are made public by the authors) and the coverage of the proposal is so far running at 77% favourable, 20% neutral and 3% negative.

EDRi’s “FAQs” on net neutrality: a rebuttal

European Digital Rights have made a series of claims about the European Commission’s efforts to protect the open internet through legislation. Here is a rebuttal:

(original claims made here , and here)

  • Citizens deserve access to the full, open, innovative internet. Today millions face blocking and throttling of online apps and services. The Commission proposes to end such blocking and throttling.  This is the first time such protections would exist across Europe.
  • Today, 96% of EU citizens have no legal protections from such practices. This proposal would make that 0%, so all Europeans have access to the full internet.
  • Specialised services are an example of Internet innovation – the “desire … for an increase in the variety of online activities” to which EDRi refer. Indeed such services may prove essential for innovative new services like IPTV, data-intensive cloud use by business, or high-quality imaging in healthcare. We welcome EDRi’s acknowledgement that specialised services (distinct from “regular” Internet access) “would not be problematic”.
  • EDRi raises the concern that use of those services could undermine speeds for other Internet users. In fact, under the Commission’s proposal, they would only be allowed if they do not cause “recurring or continuous ” impairment of regular Internet access - Article 23(2).
  • In addition this package would protect consumers from reductions in internet speeds. Under these proposals, the speed of your Internet connection would be set out clearly in your contract – including the speed at peak times, not just a theoretical maximum. Any significant and non-temporary reduction in that speed – because of specialised services or for any other reason – would then constitute a breach of your contract with your provider. This would be a far stronger protection than has ever existed before in Europe. The EDRi (correctly) notes that “in reality, contractual conditions often lack clarity”, and indeed, currently, the speeds internet users currently get in Europe are only around 74% of the advertised headline speed; Article 28(5) would explicitly deal with these problems.
  • We welcome EDRi’s acknowledgement that volume-based offers do not pose an issue for net neutrality. However they are incorrect that this would mean Internet users might be provided with the choice “between a restricted offer or a very restricted offer”. On the contrary, under the Commission’s proposals, all Internet access would have to be provided free of blocking or throttling i.e. access to the full, unrestricted Internet.
  • The implication that the proposal would have any impact on “individual blogs” or “politicians’ personal websites”, or access to them, is simply false.
  • We are pleased that the EDRi finds the definitions of reasonable traffic management in Article 23, in general, “good news”. The EDRi then describes the definitions as “broad” but does not elaborate further.
  • However, elsewhere in the FAQ, the EDRi appears to take particular issue with the exception in Art 23(5)(a) relating to prevention or impediment of serious crimes. This would allow, for example, measures to tackle access to and distribution of child pornography (as is made explicit in Recital 47). The Commission views that as a legitimate – and indeed necessary – aim. The EDRi does not acknowledge this, but merely describes such measures as a “restriction on freedom of communication”, and a “quite obvious” breach of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Needless to say, the Commission does not agree.
  • The EDRi imply that the proposal would “limit the availability of online content” and that it would allow providers to “decide what we can access and send over the internet”. On the contrary, there would be an explicit ban on blocking and throttling of any online services, except in tightly defined circumstances (e.g. to prevent serious crime).
  • EDRi claim that “Experience unequivocally shows that the oversight proposed in recital 51 will not work”. This ignores the fact that Article 24 , to which recital 51 relates, creates a significantly enhanced  enforcement and sanctioning power for national regulators to act against breaches, and to impose quality of service requirements if needed to ensure that the open Internet is not impaired. So their role would, under these proposals, not just be “oversight”, but to actually ensure compliance. “Experience” to date is therefore of little relevance.
10 mistakes & myths in a single La Quadrature du Net article

In the lead up to the European Commission finalising and publishing proposals to extend net neutrality to the 96% of Europeans who do not have legal protection of the open internet today, @LaQuadrature have been publishing some theories about Neelie Kroes and the Commission.

The problem is they are based on a series of guesses which result in a series of misrepresentations and myths and mistakes, such as these 10 problems I found while looking at today’s effort by LaQuad.


MYTH 1: That Neelie Kroes has funded a EU research project called ETICS in to either inform or create the basis for her net neutrality proposals

REALITY: Kroes wasn’t and isn’t in contact with ETICS. It applied for and received funding before Neelie Kroes was even nominated to be European Digital Commissioner, and it actually started work - on 1 January 2010 – before Kroes undertook her confirmation hearing. European research funding is awarded independently and the research is conducted independently. Kroes in fact relied on independent research from national regulators about the extent of blocking and throttling (see BEREC studies here), and acknowledges the great level of public concern about net neutrality has motivated her to take action.

MYTH 2: Neelie Kroes backtracked from 2010 commitments at her European Parliament confirmation hearing to protect net neutrality

REALITY:  Kroes said in 2010 that internet providers “shouldn’t be allowed to limit the access to service or content out of commercial motivation”  She still thinks this: it’s written in the draft regulation, and has been promised by Kroes in the European Parliament itself.


MYTH 3:  That ETICS is in secretive collaboration with the Commission or ETNO (which represents some of the telecoms industry).

REALITY: ETICS has a public website where it posts all its results and deliverables. Those receiving funding are bound by EU rules on participation in EU research programmes.


MYTH 4:  The European Commission or ETICS claims that “traffic prioritization is the only way for operators to invest in faster networks” 

REALITY: This is just made up. There are no documents or links showing this. And it contradicts many Kroes and Commission statements about the complexity of drivers, and of barriers, to investment in networks. These can all be found on the Commission’s press database and Kroes’ website 


MYTH 5:  That Kroes’ 2011 CEO roundtable was an attempt to silence net neutrality advocates, or had that effect.


REALITY: As its transparent name shows, this roundtable was an effort to engage with the commercial leaders of Europe’s telecoms and internet sector. It was not based around net neutrality and it included the CEOs not only of telecoms companies but also non-profit entities like the BBC, and supporters of net neutrality like Google (Europe). It included both “incumbent” and “alternative” operators.


MYTH 6: Most of ETIC’s consortium members were members of Neelie Kroes’ CEO roundtable

REALITY: only 4 of 17 consortium members were also members of Kroes’ roundtable. There were 36 Roundtable members.


MYTH 7:  Neelie Kroes remained silent in the face of efforts by ETNO to amend the treaty of the International Telecoms Union to favour certain content and network deals.

REALITY:  Neelie Kroes spent most of 2012 actively lobbying European governments to reject such proposals (and also proposals to give governments more control over the internet), speaking at events, and giving interviews (also here) to outline the dangers of including such amendments in any new ITU treaty.  This does not mean she used a megaphone to yell at governments or companies. But the fact remains that the Commission and Kroes prevailed in this debate, notably alongside support from the US government.  


MYTH 8: That the proposal INTRODUCES data caps to internet plans 

REALITY: Data caps already exist. It’s not a new idea or one that could realistically be banned.


MYTH 9:  The Commission is encouraging deals between operators and content providers

REALITY: This is already possible today, the Commission has no capacity or interest to interfere in voluntary commercial arrangements such as this.


MYTH 10:  That the EU sets up ICT research projects to favour one company or business model over another

REALITY: the Commission is deliberately neutral – from both a technology and commercial perspective.


More generally I don’t see how it can be claimed that Neelie Kroes is only interested in the short-term interests of a few companies or the end of openness online. She is someone who wants to end roaming premiums, end blocking and throttling of content, use public funds to extend fast internet to everyone, raise levels of investment using innovative long-term financing, and end other unsustainable telecoms cash cows. She is a long-term advocate of open source, open data, transparency legislation and consumer rights.

What would motivate such a person to stand up in front of 10,000 Campuseros, as she did last night, and say she will not allow the break up of the open internet.  Could it be that she actually believes it?  Or is it all one big conspiracy?  

Loving these photos of Neelie Kroes and Oscar-winner David Puttnam who is Ireland’s Digital Champion

Update on my computer

Re: computer situation during IGF12
“We now have a substantial update from our IT security services on my personal computer. Conflicting certificates and suspicious messages were received on the computer, and it is not possible to exclude that passwords were compromised. On the other hand, there is no data loss or malware left on my computer. We are relieved by this news and consider the matter closed.”
Naturally I will update again if I learn more. Merry Christmas, happy holidays.

Extra public funding needed to connect all Europeans to fast broadband

Neelie Kroes is making a forceful case to CEOs and MEPs for connecting an extra 45 million households to fast internet via the European Commission’s Connecting Europe Facility (CEF): "It’s time to give our economy an upgrade … ICT investment is the most productive investment for advanced economies like Europe. 

Kroes says that the Digital Single Market cannot be completed, and the goal of fast broadband for all Europeans cannot be reached, without CEF’s financial instruments being deployed at EU scale.

The special nature of CEF’s European Investment Bank supported financial instruments mean it "isn’t a donation, it’s a loan. Every Member State will get back more total investment than they put in. The EU budget gets its money back: with interest.  


Kroes says Europe will be condemned to a “world of blackouts and blackspots and dumb-phones,” not to mention permanent low economic growth, if it does not achieve €200bn in network upgrades.

Europe is not keeping up globally: 80% of US households have access to 100mb per second broadband; China is installing 35 million fibre connections in 2012. Just 1% of Europeans have such connections.
"In Germany alone broadband upgrades could boost the economy by 170 billion euros and create nearly a million jobs," Kroes will say.

Winners of EU Contest for Young Scientists

Europe’s best young scientific minds met in Bratislava today for the 24th annual Awards Ceremony for the EU Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS). The top three prizes went to teams from Ireland, Poland and Austria for projects in Physics, Chemistry and Engineering. Runners up were also recognised for their projects in areas as diverse as Physics, Computer science, Mathematics, Social sciences and Biology.

The second prize winners include: Switzerland, Germany and Denmark and the third prize winners: Estonia, Polandand Belarus. This year, Canada won the International Prize for contestants from outside the EU with a project in Environment. This year’s competition attracted 117 contestants aged 14 to 21, grouped in 79 projects, from 36 countries and EU schools.




Commentaire de la Commission sur la réunion “Pellerin - Kroes”

La Vice Présidente a eu une réunion très fructueuse avec la Ministre. Elles ont toute deux échangé des points de vue sur la conjoncture actuelle, à la fois en matière économique et réglementaire. Elles se sont accordées que l’agenda numérique est une priorité commune et un vecteur de croissance essentiel pour la France et l’Europe. Le secteur des telecoms est dans une situation délicate en Europe et en France en ce moment, et il est nécessaire de développer une vision européenne de politique industrielle pour le secteur, notamment pour relancer l’investissement dans le très haut débit, dynamiser les services télécom et informatiques et renforcer la compétitivité des équipementiers. La gestion des fréquences devrait être mieux coordonnée pour favoriser le développement de la 4G en Europe. La ministre et la vice-présidente ont également évoqué des sujets touchant à la fiscalité en France et en Europe.

59 plays

Enjoy a radio play of a nearly forgotten story about the early days of European networking, by Mariann Unterluggauer,

Forty years ago, in October 1972, a small team of young American researchers presented at the Hilton hotel in Washington DC the “Arpanet”. Also around was the British computer scientist Derek Barber. He presented at the International Computer Communications Conference a European research project called “COST Project 11”. COST 11 got renamed to “European Informatics Network" (EIN), "because it sounded better".