She’s more like Miss Jean Brodie than the Iron Lady. Yet the European Commissioner for Digital Agenda, ‘Steelie’ Neelie Kroes, lived up to her nickname last week when she ripped up a prepared speech on the telecoms single market. Instead, she gave the strongest sign yet that the European Commission could choose to guarantee net neutrality. What is going on? Iptegrity has had sight of her binned speech.
Its highly unusual for a European Commissioner to go against the line agreed with her officials. So the tearing up of a prepared speech may be significant.
In her publicly delivered speech last week, Commissioner Neelie Kroes said she wants a guaratee of net neutrality (see Steelie Neelie brandishes the net neutrality wand ). These words would seem to reflect a positive stance, and will please the citizen community. It would also seem that she is fronting up to the telecoms industry and other strong political interests that do not want net neutrality to be underpinned in law.
According to Mrs Kroes, her prepared speech talked about the past, but she wants to set out a new political agenda for the European Internet going forward. That is her public rationale for the change of heart.
In fact, the two speeches suggest two quite different agendas.
The speech actually given by Neelie Kroes addresses a Parliament that’s about to go into election mode. It therefore pumps up the issues that may help to get the attention of the electorate and motivate to go and vote.
The other speech, the one she did not give, is arguably, bland and uninspiring. It waffles about building trust online and making public sector websites accessible.
However, the binned speech is interesting because it addresses the other agenda – that is, the industry agenda. It tackles one particularly sensitive point for her main industrial consituency and that is the cut in funding for network access. This funding cut was done as part of a much higher level political deal over the European economy and cuts to the EU budget.
The unspoken speech tries to comfort the industry. Despite ‘drastic cuts to the Connecting Europe Facility, there is still funding for digital infrastructure, ” she would have said:
“The European Council put forward drastic cuts to the Connecting Europe facility but there is still funding available for digital service infrastructure; and even some for broadband – which should also attract other sources of Eu funding and guarantee citizens top-quality services. We have amended the Telecommunications Guidelines proposal and I hope the Parliament will not be able to contribute to its views, so we can start Connecting Europe as soon as possible“
The unspoken speech would have continued to say:
“‘The EU is still a jumble of 27 national telecoms markets. Regulations are distinct, fragmented and sometimes diverging. Fragmentation […] inhibits investment and innovation, meaning we are out-performed by the rest of the world in terms of R&D, roll-out of fibre broadband networks and 4G wireless services […] ‘We can provide the right stable and predictable regulatory environemtn to promote investment, competition and coherence’.
The legislative programme in the torn up speech stated: web accessibility, cybersecurity, e-Ideintification, cutting the cost of civil works and legislation for the telecoms single market’. It promised only the safeguard of an open Internet. In the speech that Mrs Kroes presented, the legislative agenda is more upbeat.
I will put forward the hypothesis that there is split in somewhere in DG Connect. Commissioner Kroes has clearly decided that finally she must deal with the discord in her services. We await with interest to see how she succeeds.
This is an original article from Iptegrity.com and reflects research that I have carried out. If you refer to it or to its content, please cite my name as the author, and provide a link back to iptegrity.com. Media and Academics – please cite as Monica Horten, 2013, Why did Steelie Neelie tear up the telecoms agenda? 6 June 2013. Commercial users - please contact me.