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Internet issues



The emergence of Global Information Networks will have a profoundly positive impact on the industry and citizens. Cross-border trade and services will be boosted as never before.

The significant but high risk investments in technology, services and infrastructure will be taken care of by industry and will be market-led. Entrepreneurship is the crucial factor and will lead to new industrial structures either from “scratch” or through rearrangements of current businesses. Entrepreneurs and industrialists need an appropriate business environment because of the risks involved. Governments are responsible for creating this environment. Global Information Networks furthermore need a global regulatory framework which provides maximum opportunities and freedom for industry.

Government actions with respect to information networks should in particular be guided by several key principles:

1. Regulation should be as light-handed and flexible as possible.

2. Legal rules applicable to global information networks and to business transactions being executed on networks should be consistent across the borders.

3. Telecommunication markets should be opened up rapidly to effective competition thereby reducing national and cross border telecommunication costs to international competitive levels.

4. Conditions must be created on the basis of which industry and consumers can have confidence in the security, privacy, and the authenticity of electronically transmitted information and electronic transactions.

5. Market forces must be allowed to rapidly develop open technical standards.

6. Discriminatory tax costs should not be imposed on the use of these networks.

7. A high level of intellectual property rights protection is necessary for the creation, storage and distribution of content.

8. Opportunities for becoming computer literate should be available to people of all ages and from across the social spectrum: education and training is essential for the use of global information networks.


1. Electronic commerce

Electronic commerce (the electronic linkage of businesses with manufacturers, distributors, suppliers and customers creating and facilitating global trading) has created high expectations in the areas of customer services as well as in the creation of jobs, new business and technologies.

These expectations will however only be fulfilled, if customers and industry will accept e-commerce as a fast, secure and easy way to do business. Whereas we strongly support a market driven approach for the development of electronic commerce we note an area where government action is needed, namely contract law. Contract law needs to be updated in order to enable dignital signatures, dignital documents and to provide effective dispute resolution mechanisms. But these actions should only be done in close cooperation with industry in order to ensure a liberal, inexpensive and non-bureaucratic mechanism which will promote market development.


1. The development of electronic commerce should be market-driven.

2. Contract law should be updated in order to foster the acceptance of electronic commerce and to ensure that commerce over electronic networks can be facilitated quickly on a global basis.

3. The Transparency Directive and Mutual Recognition Agreements should be considered as appropriate catalysts.

2. Regulatory framework

EU legislation has originally contributed towards the opening of Europe's communication markets. National governments now face the significant responsibility to implement these EU rules to their maximum effect, i.e. without distortion and without discrepancies between the various national systems. As quickly as possible, communication markets should become so competitive as to reduce the need for undue governmental control and regulation. Effective liberalisation of competing infrastructure will stimulate the development of broadband or third generation of mobile system infrastructure without further delay.


The Commission and Governments should ensure full, effective and timely implementation of legislation.


The technologies and information and communication services of yesterday and today converge to create the technologies of the future. No longer will divisions between telecommunications, broadcasting, publishing and information technology make sense. Future regulatory approaches need to recognise the global nature of information and communication services and the networks that carry them. They need to encourage innovation and they need to be based on competition rules.


1. Regulators must reappraise the basis of existing regulatory regimes because of the convergence of technologies.

2. The future legal framework should be based on general principles of law, not on sector specific legislation.

3. Selfregulation and technical solutions, such as voluntary content filtering and rating, should play a central role in content control.

Intellectual Property Rights

A high level of protection of intellectual property right is essential to the successful development of global information networks. The global digital environment poses new risks of infringement of intellectual property.


1. Governments should ensure faithful and timely ratification and implementation of the new WIPO Treaties on “Copyright”- and “Performance and Phonograms”. Negotiations on the remaining WIPO Treaty on “databases” should be continued incorporating the sui generis right embodied in the `Database Directive'.

2. Proper enforcement of IPR protection has to take into account TRIPS and Berne requirements.

3. The European Commission's forthcoming “Copyright Green Paper” must ensure that adequate levels of protection for intellectual property rights are maintained and extended to new electronic technologies and uses. Implementing a broad, harmonised reproduction right, the making available right over electronic networks, and the distribution right as well as the legal protection of market-driven technical anti-copying systems and copyright information data will be of particular importance.


Freely available access to strong encryption is essential for building consumer and business confidence and trust in global networks for commerce and for important communications.


1. Governments should permit strong encryption to be widely available in order to promote confidence and trust in electronic commerce and communications.

2. Individuals and businesses should be free to choose the encryption technologies that meet their particular security and privacy needs.

3. Governments should not adopt new regulations that restrict the distribution, sale, export or use of strong encryption, and any existing regulation should be eliminated. In any event, private individuals and corporations should be entitled to generate and manage/store their encryption key in-house.

4. The development of digital signature systems, which protect the integrity and authenticity of information transmitted over electronic networks, should be market-driven.

Data protection

An appropriate balance must be struck between protecting the personal data of individual users and promoting good business practices for entities that market commercial products and services online. In addition, data protection policies must recognise the need for a global data flow.


1. The EU Data Protection Directive should not be used to establish new trade barriers which could hinder international data flow.

2. Instead, the development of self regulatory regimes-including codes of practice and contractual solutions, should be encouraged in order to support users confidence that internationally transferred personal data is adequately protected.

3. Any sector-specific data protection rules (i.e. the proposed EU telecommunications data protection directive) should be avoided.


The technological advances, which the world is experiencing by the phenomenon of electronic commerce, are not compatible with the existing tax rules. Conservative application will lead to nonsensical attempts of taxation. It is apparent that technology rather than (tax) policy will determine the tax rules of the next century.

Further study is needed, allowing companies and individuals to trade throughout Europe in the most cost-effective way possible. High administrative burdens and complicated registration systems must be limited to an absolute minimum.

Business in Europe and the rest of the world are still very concerned about persistent discussions regarding an European `bit-tax'. In order to restore business confidence, this concept should be dismissed firmly by government leaders.


1. Harmonisation of payment of VAT and excise tax for services and goods ordered electronically, is advisable, because of the geographical mobility of Web sites to countries with no or moderate tax regimes.

2. There is a future role for OECD and WTO in co-ordinating an international, uniformed system for taxation and excise taxon ICT.

3. Tax on information distributed electronically should be technology neutral i.e. not be discriminated in comparison with the tax on similar data distributed by other means.

3. Education and training

The new emerging technologies and their uses provide our societies with new opportunities for users. Users include universities and schools, their staff and students and those using the global information networks from home, users of all ages. European Governments should move ahead with ambitious and long term programs to bring the Information Society revolution to the class-rooms.

Our children will shape the future electronic world and should quickly master all the tools they need. A major effort is still needed to educate the educators. Many European teachers still shy away from new technologies and do not yet posses sufficient skills to stimulate their pupils in using new information systems. Such an effort would do justice to the general consensus that education in ICT is a cornerstone of the Information Society.

Among the questions to be answered are: What measures can be taken to raise public awareness of global information networks as a valuable educational tool? What measures are needed to promote the responsible use of this new medium? Which measures can be taken to ensure exchange of good practice on European and global level?


1. Governments and industry should collaborate in providing educational material and equipment. Governments are recommended to undertake concerted actions in the field of using modern ICT-techniques. Furthermore, governments should create the right conditions to ensure close association of industry with educatio-nal institutes to generate a continual stream of market-oriented ICT-experts.

2. The global players - private and public enterprises together with governments and international organisations like the EU and the G7 - should constitute a `Global Information Superhighschool' (a multimedia networked (high)school) forglobal wide sustainability, as a new concept for 21st century education. An adequate organisation form for the Information Superhighschool, as far as global distribution, delivery, and co-operation with local educational institutes are concerned, would have to be studied upon.

4. Standardisation

Standardisation is primarily the responsibility of the private sector (manufacturers, networks operators, service providers). In addition the EU and Governments should stimulate the implementation of the necessary reforms, such as redefining the tasks of national standardisation bodies. The EU institutions should not be involved in the technical standardisation, unless regulatory implications occur.

A reinforced European standardisation-system will be in a better position to play its part at the international level. The ITU, ISO and the IEC may not be considered ideally structured for world-wide standardisation works, but reforms in those bodies will require more time. In the meantime, Europe will continue to be active where appropriate including ETSI and the various fora and consortia which produce the de facto standards (technical specifications). The work of TACS, the Transatlantic Business Advisory Committee on Standards, should be supported.

Since innovation is continuing at a rapid pace, seamless interoperability remains essential. In the Global Information Society, content, services, networks and equipment must be able to interoperate without unnecessary restrictions, via the global infrastructure. Open voluntary standards will form the basis for the implementation of these requirements. In order to accelerate the acceptance and the bringing into effect of new equipment and systems, the supplier's Declaration of Conformity will be a powerful tool.


The European standardisation system must become more effective. In particular standard making in Europe should :

  • be led by the requirements of the market
  • be less fragmented and well co-ordinated at the European level
  • take place in a one-step mode on the European level and streamline its procedures in order to get minimum delays with maximum consensus.
  • be in line with the global standards.

5. Government services

The European Union needs a harmonised legal framework to achieve the objective of maximising access to and use of public sector information. In order to harness the dynamism and creativity of European information providers the framework should encourage member states and the institutions of the European Union to:


1. exempt such information from intellectual property protection except for information pertaining to national security; and

2. not charge fees for redissemination of public information that exceed the cost of dissemination to the information provider.

Government administrations have started using telematics as an efficiency tool for internal and intra-administrations co-operation. The fiscal social security and statistical administrations have taken the lead in this respect in many countries and should continue to do so. As soon as internal procedures within the administration are up to modern standards (business redesign is often called for), government services can be made available in several ways.


1. Government should actively boost the use of global information networks by putting information and services on the network and should commit themselves to provide this information by a date certain..

2. Governments should make extensive use of the global information networks and of electronic services themselves. They should expand the dialogue with Citizens online, and by promoting the use and the knowledge of global information networks in schools and universities.


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