In her final speech as EU digital economy commissioner, outgoing VP Neelie Kroes warned European telecommunications operators that they would need to adapt fast to the changing market to avoid being left behind. “The future market won’t be characterised by rent-seeking, and protectionism. It won’t feature players stuck in gilded national cages. It won’t achieve profit by relying on dated revenue streams,” she told operators gathered at the Brussels summit of industry lobby group ETNO. After joking that “you’re probably all looking forward to the very near future when you won’t have to put up with me anymore,” Kroes went on to explain how she would run the telecoms industry if she was in charge of it. “Make specific complaints: ‘Regulate my rival’ is not a general message that will resonate,” she said, adding that what the industry needs is “ large, strong pan-European players alongside smaller niche players.”
Although Kroes has battled telecoms executives throughout her near five-year tenure over issues such as regulation, roaming fees and, more recently, net neutrality, she welcomed ETNO’s new “Think Digital” manifesto, saying it would allow them to play a more positive role in shaping Europe’s digital future in the next five years and help them prepare for developments such as the Internet of Things (IoT). “Soon we will see everything connected,” she said. “Will the telecoms sector lead us there or will you be dragged along behind?”
The commissioner designate for the digital economy, Germany’s Günther Oettinger, is considered more sympathetic to the interests of the major operators than Kroes, but during European Parliament hearings he backed many of the issues championed by his predecessor, such as net neutrality, the need to limit roaming fees and the plan to create a single European market for electronic communications.