The role of electronic communications regulators’ for the development of digital economy

Dr. Leonidas Kanellos

EETT President , ΒEREC Chair 2013


Signor Presidente, Rispettabili Colleghi, Signore e Signori,



Prima di tutto vorrei ringraziarvi per avermi invitato a questo importante evento. Purtroppo, dato che non parlo l’italiano, mi dispiace ma sono costretto a continuare il mio discorso in inglese.



Today I am standing in front of you with a twofold identity, on the one hand, as Chairman of EETT, which is the independent Regulator of the postal and electronic communications markets in Greece, those two sectors creating approximately a 10 Billion Euro annual turnover. On the other hand, as Vice Chairman of BEREC, the newly established Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications.



Ladies and Gentlemen,



In ancient times, Greek tragedy was used to allow the audience to purge its fears through the sufferings of the characters on stage. In the current crisis of modern Greece there is no easy way for the audience to purge its fears. Exactly where we are in the current ritual is difficult to say.  What is sure is that, much as in ancient times, some of the most significant action is being played out away from the stage.



In fact, the international financial community led by the European Central Bank is urging the Hellenic Government towards turning the screws on the dysfunctional public sector by demanding more privatization of state - owned enterprises, reduction of the welfare state, drastic salary cuttings and extensive tax reforms. The sort of liberalization previously unimaginable would do well not to strangle the potential for a private sector led recovery. In this process, tourism, shipping, the agricultural and banking sectors, as well as the deployment of fast broadband infrastructures have a major role to play.



Under the current circumstances, we are fully aware of our responsibility to foster development of Next Generation Access Networks, in accordance with European rules and best practices. This may occur by encouraging flexible network investment schemes, such as public-private partnerships, use of European structural funds and low interest loans. Such measures are necessary to trigger high investment needed by operators to deploy new networks. In order to succeed, such projects have to be implemented within a stable and predictable regulatory environment which safeguards transparency, fosters competition and promotes innovation to the benefit of the economy and society.



We are fully convinced that in time of financial crisis, broadband infrastructure remains a fundamental enabler of any nation’s economic recovery. Except from opportunities for creation of new jobs and modernization of the economy, broadband enables the citizens’ participation to the Information Society. In this regard it is critical to ensure high speed internet access to interactive digital services, educational content, healthcare applications, tele-working, social media use and so on. We live in an era where the world has become an interconnected neighborhood. In this context, broadband is no more a luxury but a critical national infrastructure.



Our Authority, the Hellenic Telecommunications and Post Commission (EETT), has fully appreciated the crucial importance of the widespread and affordable for all broadband services. Consequently, we have made an enormous and persistent effort to reduce the gap between Greece and the rest of Europe. We achieved this by applying effective and flexible regulation in a liberalized market where competition is recognized as the main vehicle for promoting innovation.



So far the results have been spectacular: within a period of 5 years we have contemplated broadband prices in our country fall dramatically. We have also seen nominal access speeds rapidly increase. Moreover, broadband penetration has soared from 1% to 20% of the population, making Greece one of the faster growing broadband markets in Europe.

We have moved step by step from introducing service-based competition, with the use of carrier selection and pre-selection, to paving the way for infrastructure-based competition, with the unbundling of the local loop. We are currently preparing spectrum refarming auctions for the provision of 3G services in the 900 MHz band. We consider mobile broadband as a powerful tool, capable of ensuring citizens’ access in remote and rural areas in Greece, which has many islands and highlands.



Our strong belief is that the European Regulatory Framework provides a clear path and all the necessary tools for developing a competitive and dynamic electronic communications market. This can drive economic development in all sectors and can propel the society towards digital economy.



Ladies and gentlemen,



The European Commission has recently published the Digital Agenda 2020, laying down the vision for a digital Europe and a roadmap to achieve it. This strategic flagship initiative addresses a variety of thematic areas, including:



  • The creation of a single digital market across Europe
  • The improved interoperability and use of standards
  • The uptake of research and higher education
  • The bridging of the digital divide, with the acquisition of digital skills by all Europeans
  • The strengthening of security and trust to e-services,

Key targets of the Digital Agenda are to achieve until 2020 high speed broadband coverage (above 30 Mbps) for all households in the EU and ultra-high speed coverage (above 100 Mbps) for at least 50% of the households in Europe.



As BEREC members, all national regulators are firm advocates of fully embracing and adopting the common European practice, because we all have seen it working in practice. However, achieving those goals is definitely not an easy task. In fact, such exercise requires a coherent and holistic broadband strategy, which may be founded on five pillars:



Investment in broadband infrastructures is an absolute prerequisite for economic development. Competition is the main driver for investment and innovation. The complementary use of wired and wireless technologies is necessary to cover both densely and sparsely populated areas.

 

Accessibility and affordability for all are fundamental, since broadband should be a public good, with no citizen been excluded from access to the Information Society. Last but not least, broadband development is not a goal but the means for delivering services to consumers and businesses.



In any European broadband deployment plan, all stakeholders need to actively contribute, as they have distinct roles:

The Policy Makers, namely the Government and the Parliament, by instigating the appropriate policies, laws and regulations ensuring harmonization together with the effective use of national resources, such as radio frequencies, numbers and rights of way.



The Regulators, by implementing EU policies at a national level in a consistent way, by safeguarding competition and by guaranteing a level playing field among all operators.



The electronic communications’ industry, by investing in new technologies and mainly in people, who are able to deliver consumer-centric services that enrich user choices, pluralism and social inclusion.



Ladies and gentlemen,



The current debt crisis in Europe introduces a dilemma about our European future, as it becomes clear that the eurozone has only two options: to go backwards to dissolution, dismantling our European vision, or to step forward towards a closer union.



In our view, the actual "Comedia Divina" has to be accomplished by moving quickly from the actual "Inferno" towards the "Purgatorio" so as to finally reach "Paradiso".



Signore e Signori,



Noi siamo pienamente convinti che la strada per la ripresa economica sia digitale.



Concludendo, vorrei augurare che questo Forum abbia un grande successo, cosa che ritengo garantita.



Grazie