Commissioner Reding lays down new gauntlet on European digital dividend

by Caroline Gabriel, ReThink Wireless

European Commissioner Viviane Reding, responsible for telecoms, media and technology, and the scourge of many slow moving carriers, has unofficially confirmed that she will stay for a third term in the post, Brussels sources indicate, despite speculation that she would be moved to another Commission post.

And she is not letting up on her crusade to modernise and harmonise European telecoms efforts and keep the region at the forefront of the mobile and media world. The lower data roaming charges that she pushed through came into force across the EU this month, and now the redoubtable Reding has demanded again that European member states should accelerate their transition to digital TV, regardless of official switchover dates, freeing the spectrum for mobile broadband and other uses. And she is calling for a pan-EU secure framework for mobile payments.

Speaking in at the Lisbon Council in Brussels, Reding outlined her five year vision, stressing a range of telecoms reform programs. And she set out her stall on digital switchover: “I call on EU governments not to wait until 2012, the deadline for the switchover. They should bring these benefits to citizens now.”

Another top priority, she argues, is to create a simple legal framework to make it easier for consumers to access and pay for digital content across borders, to stimulate the whole content value chain, and to help open up the digital economy for smaller businesses. Eventually, the goal would be an EU-wide cloud that would support a massive and secure payments and transactions system, that would be open and low cost in supporting businesses’ moves to modern processes.

Reding estimates that the incremental value of the analog TV spectrum for wireless broadband across the EU is between €150 billion and €200 billion. European coordination of individual states’ work could increase the ‘digital dividend’ by an additional €50 billion between now and 2015, Reding argues.

She said: “I call therefore on all EU governments: Don’t wait until 2012, the EU-wide deadline for the final digital switch-off, to bring these benefits to you businesses and citizens. Act swiftly now.”

Reding would also like to see companies make better use of digital technology to cut their carbon dioxide emissions, for example by using videoconferencing instead of air travel.

The Luxembourg government re-nominated Reding for another five years but with a new Commission set to take over in December, there is already chatter that she will change portfolio; Commissioners rarely stay in the same post for many years and Reding has been in this position since 2004, having previously spent five years as Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth, Media and Sport.

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