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20th Apr 2018

Oettinger's digital plans focus on better infrastructure

  • More infrastructure is key to digital economy, says Oettinger (Photo: European Parliament)

In his opening address to MEPs on Monday (29 September), the EU’s incoming digital commissioner Gunther Oettinger emphasised infrastructure as key to Europe’s so-called digital economy.

“It is above all a matter of infrastructure. We need to be sure that every citizen, every company, every hairdresser, every craftsman, can use the Internet, can use the digital channels, organise their work,” he said.

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He described investments in ICT infrastructure as a “fundamental pre-requisite” for a successful European digital economy. Part of the plan includes creating the regulatory environment to attract private investment.

MEPs grilled the 61-year old German politician in a three-hour session where he fielded questions ranging from cyber security to big data, the cloud, data protection and net neutrality.

Net neutrality is the principle that every point on the network can connect to any other point on the network, without discrimination on the basis of origin, destination or type of data.

Asked at a press conference after the hearing to further clarify his position on the principle, Oettinger said it “is a common Internet for all users and for citizens” and that “we need net neutrality for all users”.

He said there could be an exemption in emergency cases in terms of public interest but not for businesses.

“There may be an exemption, but not for businesses,” he said.

His response did not impress some MEPs.

“We need stronger guarantees with regard to net neutrality and we need more clarity about Oettinger’s position and planned action,” said centre-left MEPs Petra Kammerevert and Dan Nica in a joint statement.

Telecommunication companies, for their part, argue that charging for different speeds and services would enable them to upgrade and invest in better infrastructure.

MEPs before the summer amended a draft law to close loopholes left in by the European Commission's original proposal to prevent Internet providers from prioritising access to specialised services.

But an internal document circulating at the Council, representing member states, threatens to roll back measures on net neutrality in favour of big business and reintroduce some of the loopholes.

MEPs back net neutrality law

MEPs have backed open access to the Internet by tightening plans by the European Commission on net neutrality.

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