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Speech by Gunnar Hökmark at the ”Fibre To The Home Conference 2014: Showcasing a Brighter Future”

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Speech by Gunnar Hökmark, Member of the European Parliament and Vice President of the EPP Group, at the ”Fibre To The Home Conference 2014: Showcasing a Brighter Future”

Date: Thursday 20 February 2014

Venue: Älvsjömässan, Stockholm, Sweden

Ladies and Gentlemen, friends of fibre to the homes,

Snapshots are telling us a lot and fooling us even more. They give us a picture of the world, of the reality, and the feeling that this is how things are. They seem so real and immediate that they cannot be wrong. But normally they are always wrong.

Let us take the figure skaters in Sochi, jumping up in the air to the tunes of Chopin, Sinatra or ABBA. The snapshot will show us an extremely well trained and coordinated person in some milliseconds of rotation in the air. His or her facial expression concentrated and focused on the task and its next move.

But we do not know if he or she is rotating, it might be just a jump up in the air, and more important, we do not know if she or he in the next millisecond will lose control, fall down on the ice and angrily turn to the manager. What we do know for sure is that the drama in the air is over when the photo is taken. Only a few seconds later the figure skater will be on another place in another move.

To be true, when we see the photo we don’t know if it is taken in Sochi, during the championships or during training, and we have no clue if he or she is better than the competitors or what the audience experiences during the performance. We do not know from where she came and we do not know where she is heading. The snapshot was true only for the millisecond it captured.

If we take a photo of a painting things will be different. Or if we take a snapshot of the sea it is also different. If we take a snapshot of a number of cows climbing a hill it will tell us a lot of the drama. Even a photo of the traffic, entering Stockholm, from its suburbs on a Thursday morning will tell us something about the traffic.  The cues, the speed, even if things will be changed a little bit later.

The world is changing all the time. And when in rapid change, the picture of the present tells us less and less the more rapid the change is. And when the change is immediate and continuous like it is today, the snapshots tells us less and less. They might even be misleading.

The telecom- and ITC sector is like the figure dance and not like any other part of our society. The Internet as we know it did not exist when the Iron Curtain fell. The smartphones and the tablets are fairly knew and based on the technologies of yesterday, and allowing for the services of today, which is not bad!

We cannot understand the snapshot of the dancer if we do not know where he is coming from but we anyway do not know where he is going. The only thing we know for sure is that he will not stay where he is. In only some seconds everything will be different on the ice.

When we look upon the world of today, it is the result of past days that we are impressed by. In the moment of our glances things are changing into a very different shape. It is this shape which we are not only to be prepared for but also to prepare.

The Internet services of today were not possible with the speeds and capacities of yesterday. Netflix, Viasat, Spotify, live broadcasts online, taxi services showing where the car is, Youtube and Facetime not mentioning weather services or whatever we did not have then.

The same applies for tomorrow. The services of tomorrow will not be possible with the speeds and capacities of today. Or, the development of services in Sweden and in Europe as a whole will be dependant on the speeds and capacities we are investing in today for tomorrow. And if we do not invest, the new services and markets will not emerge. We will have the same services as today, more or less, if we have the same speeds and capacities. And we will certainly not get the new generations of services and products on the Internet if the speeds and capacities form the limits of creativity, entrepreneurs, fantasy and markets.

That is here. We will not have them here. But everywhere else. The snapshot of today regarding 4G, broadband penetration and deployment, speeds and capacities might give us a good picture but it will not be a picture of the present tomorrow and the day after.

That is why I am calling for an intense reform package changing the framework for the digital market.

European universities must have the best speeds and capacities in the world, allowing for everything that the knowledge society will allow for and demand. And at the centre of a knowledge centre there will be enormous amounts of information to process, analyse and distribute.

European capitals must have the best speeds and capacities if we want world leading businesses to have their headquarters there.

European cities and villages must have the best speeds and capacities if the internal market is to be real for them and for all of us.

European periphery, whatever that is, rural areas and the country side, needs to be connected with tomorrow, not in order to download the snapshots of today.

First of all we must set the targets right. Being better than others requires us to talk about GBs instead of MBs.

Second, European structural funds and the funding for broadband and Trans-European Telecommunications Networks must be based upon the criteria of tomorrow, not of the days before yesterday.

Third, member states must as soon as possible implement the Cost Reduction Directive, or the ”digging down directive” as I call it. Making it easer and cheaper to deploy broadband. We are just now finalizing the negotiation with council aiming for a cultural change regarding how we work with modern infrastructure.

Fourth, optical fibre is superior to everything else; everything else will be dependent on optical fibre. The mobile data traffic will be dependant and local houses will be dependent on the capacities optical fibre offers.

Fifth, the targets of the Digital Agenda belong to the snapshots from the past. Sorry. This means that entrepreneurs and operators must take the lead if we are not to be trapped in the targets of 30Mbs for all European households. All European households need better than that.

Sixth, open up for business models where operators are operators and not service providers. Or let them at least focus on the operations and be open for all services. That is how we can build Trans-European Networks of Telecom.

Seventh, free up the 700-band because that is crucial for having the capacity for mobile data traffic needed with the exponential development of the traffic we face. Mobile data traffic is essential for the development of the new services but fixed lines and optic fibre will be essential for the mobile data traffic in all areas of our Union.

The commercial logic is obvious for the start of a new wave of investments in ultra-high speed broadband. The demand is there, the benefits, the speeds and the capacities will be if they are ambitious enough to enable the European economy to get back on track as a leading market for knowledge, innovations and the services of tomorrow.

The snapshot of today may show that our societies and countries are not that bad, some leading, and some lagging behind. But it is anyway not enough because the snapshots of tomorrow depend on us doing better today than we do.

We can get the right things in place; make the right decisions, reform and restructure. We need to do what is needed for the leadership of tomorrow.

And one of the actions needed is to deploy broadband with the world’s best capacities and speeds.

Simple to say but not easy to make. Difficult to change but feasible to do.

If we want to be number one we must act as a number one.

And by the way, Snapshot is one of the apps of today. Maybe not of tomorrow. Thank you.