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Video and text of plenary speech on a European broadband strategy

Gunnar Hökmark (EPP-ED), rapporteur

– Mr President, first of all I would like to thank the shadow rapporteurs who have contributed to this report.

The internet and broadband emerged, in the way we know it today, in the middle of the 1990s; it was, then, only about 10 years ago that these phenomena started to change the world. No one at that time could have foreseen the impact of this change or how it would transform societies and change the pattern of the world economy. No one at that time could have predicted what would come of it and what opportunities it would give to individuals all over the world. I think it is important to say the same thing today. No one knows how big the changes will be. We only know one thing: the changes arising from broadband development will be much more far-reaching this time than those of the last 10 years because the speed of change is greater today than it was then.

This provides important grounds for decision-making in the European Union. It is important to have stable rules and institutions that allow for new entrepreneurs, new ideas and new technologies to come along, and that allow for the dynamic, not only in the economy, but also in society, to make full use of broadband.

I think that the development of broadband is a unique opportunity above all for the European Union, because it combines growth, and opportunities for growth, with the cohesion of different regions. It binds people and regions together at the same time as giving new opportunities for growth and new jobs. It distributes opportunities for growth in different areas, and we can see from globalisation what this brings us. It brings countries and regions closer to each other, but also provides a huge number of new opportunities. For the European Union, this is a special thing, because we can be at the forefront of the development of e-health, e-learning, e-government, e-trade, e-medicine etc. if we ensure that we are the region in the world that is moving most in this area.

There are some important points of departure that must be based on the fact that the value of broadband depends on the number of users. Therefore, it is of utmost importance for us to get people all over the Union connected as soon as possible. It is of importance to us all, wherever we live. The second thing is that the value of broadband is also dependent on the content, which is why it is important that it is open to as many as possible.

There are five points that I would like to highlight that are underlined in the report. First of all, the more competition there is, the faster the markets today develop the deployment of broadband. In those countries and regions where there is a lot of competition, the deployment of broadband is faster than in other parts of the Union. That means it is important not to distort competition but to open up more competition in this area.

Second, there are few areas where it is better to use European funding than in this area, provided certain preconditions are fulfilled: for example, where the market cannot provide for deployment or when it is a question of increasing the level of advanced technology in this area – which is not just about deployment as such but ensuring that we are in the technological lead.

I am sure that the EU can be the leader but that also means that we should highlight some other points. First of all, two preconditions for EU funding: there should be a level playing field where we are funding, and we should use the funding in such a way that it will increase the technology, not only deployment. We do not need the old technologies, we need the new technologies because they are the best, especially for outlying regions, where costs decrease the more advanced technologies are.

Lastly, we need to have neutrality between different technologies, different operators, different content providers and different services. If we do that, we can make full use of what this technology can give the European Union. We can be at the forefront technologically and in terms of making use of opportunities and we can ensure that we combine growth with cohesion, which will make European citizens stronger in the society and the world in which they live.