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Opening remarks by Ms. Viviane REDING (video address)
EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media


Ladies and Gentlemen,
Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,

It is a great honour for me to open the Fourth World Telecommunication Policy Forum and I would like to thank the Secretary General of the ITU, Dr Hamadoun Touré, for the invitation.

Let me congratulate Portugal for hosting and organising such an important event and warmly thank Mário Lino, Minister for Public Works, Transport and Communications of Portugal for the excellent work that he and his department have put into the organisation of this event.

Today the World Telecommunication Policy Forum faces new challenges.

Technological challenges, as illustrated by the convergence phenomenon and the emergence of Next Generation Networks (NGNs). These two technological revolutions bring together multiple devices and services to compete on a common IP-based level playing field, where service delivery is no longer tied to a single physical transmission platform. More service providers can compete with established network operators to offer end-users, at a higher speed, multiple combinations of data, voice and video services. This is the future. This development will boost competition and is a great step forward for consumers’ choice and ultimately consumers’ welfare. Nonetheless certain market players may consider these evolutions as a competitive threat and could be tempted to try to prevent them. Therefore policy makers must be prepared to react so that the gains from high speed connectivity delivered over NGNs are not put at risk.

Finding a balance to reflect the increasing weight of emerging and developing countries is a political challenge that the European Commission is committed to meet. Funds have been provided that are managed by the ITU. They will help ACP countries develop regulatory frameworks to reap the full benefits of the technological revolution in the telecom sector with positive economic effects on growth and development.

There are also global challenges such as the contribution of ICT to the recovery of the economy and in the fight against climate change. Today we face increasingly complex economic and societal issues, unprecedented in the history of mankind. We have to think of new ways to address them and ensure that these efforts will generate lasting effects. As European Commissioner, I must insist on the need to complete the Internal Market which is an absolute prerequisite for Europe to come out of the crisis and move towards growth.

To relaunch the economy several measures are being envisaged. ICTs are part of the package because our technologies play a horizontal role underpinning the economic, social and industrial activity with the added potential to improve the sustainability of our environment. Think of the applications for improving energy efficiency, energy security, monitoring the environment, implementing smart power grids and integrating new sources of renewable energy in the power supply. Think of the business and job opportunities they represent.

I cannot end without stressing the importance of better and overall availability of higher speed broadband as the cornerstone for the future development of our society and of our economy. It is the only way to bring the benefits of the innovative ICT technologies and services to all citizens throughout the European territory. The Commission is currently working on a proposal for a package of measures to develop a European Broadband strategy, while we are already close to reaching an agreement on the new telecom regulatory package, which will also act as a stimulus for European economies, by enhancing regulatory predictability and legal certainty across the EU, thus providing a strong incentive to invest in NGNs for any market player.
The European Commission is pleased with the excellent working relationship with the ITU and we look forward to a successful conclusion of your work this week. We will follow the outcome of this Forum with great interest.
I wish you all a very successful conference.