Big tech accountability? Read how we got here in  The Closing of the Net 

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 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  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.

Iptegrity in brief is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I’ve been analysing analysing digital policy since 2008. Way back then, I identified how issues around rights can influence Internet policy, and that has been a thread throughout all of my research. I hold a PhD in EU Communications Policy from the University of Westminster (2010), and a Post-graduate diploma in marketing.   I’ve served as an independent expert on the Council of Europe  Committee on Internet Freedoms, and was involved in a capacity building project in Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine. I am currently (from June 2022)  Policy Manager - Freedom of Expression, with the Open Rights Group. For more, see About Iptegrity is made available free of charge for  non-commercial use, Please link-back & attribute Monica Horten. Thank you for respecting this.

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Copyright Enforcement Enigma launch, March 2012

In 2012, I presented my PhD research in the European Parliament.


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