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 Europe's way to the information society: an action plan

COMMISSION OF THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITIES COM(94) 347 final

Brussels, 19.07.1994

COMMUNICATION from the COMMISSION

to the COUNCIL and the EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

and to the ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE and the COMMITTEE of REGIONS


INTRODUCTION

I. REGULATORY AND LEGAL FRAMEWORK

  1. Towards a competitive environment
  2. Standardisation, interconnection and interoperability
  3. Tariffs
  4. Worldwide dimension
  5. Intellectual property rights
  6. Privacy
  7. Electronic protection, legal protection and security
  8. Media ownership
  9. Competition
  10. Audiovisual

II. NETWORKS, BASIC SERVICES, APPLICATIONS AND CONTENT

  1. Networks
  2. Basic services
  3. Applications
  4. Content

III. SOCIAL, SOCIETAL AND CULTURAL ASPECTS

IV. PROMOTION ACTIVITIES

ANNEX

  1. Tables: pending measures
  2. new measures under consideration
  3. partnership

INTRODUCTION

The information society is on its way. A "digital revolution" is triggering structural changes comparable to last century's industrial revolution with the corresponding high economic stakes. The process cannot be stopped and will lead eventually to a knowledge-based economy.

The Commission's White paper on "Growth, Competitiveness, Employment - The challenges and ways forward into the 21st century" acknowledges the importance of this process, critical to the future of European society. It develops a positive vision, stressing that information and communication technologies and related services have the potential to promote steady and sustainable growth, to increase competitiveness, to open new job opportunities and to improve the quality of life of all Europeans.

The White paper was examined by the European Council at its December 1993 meeting. The Council gave its full political support and requested that a report be prepared on the information society by a group of prominent persons, providing concrete recommendations for action.

The report "Europe and the global information society - Recommendations to the European Council", illustrates the search for a consensus on this issue and builds on the White paper's analysis. It highlights the need for an acceleration of the liberalisation process and the achievement and the preservation of universal service and the Internal Market principles of free movement. Public authorities will have to set new "rules of the game", control their implementation and launch public interest initiatives. The deployment and financing of an information infrastructure will be the primarily responsibility of the private sector. At a Community level, in addition to legislative initiative, it will be necessary to better target available resources to contribute to the new objectives.

Finally, the report emphasizes the urgency of adopting its recommendations. The race is on at global level, notably US and Japan. Those countries which will adapt themselves most readily will de facto set technological standards for those who follow. It also underlines the global nature of the issue, and calls for proper coordination mechanisms, and the advancement of international negotiations.

The report was submitted to the European Council for its meeting in CORFU on 24-25 June 1994. The European Council's conclusions recognize the importance of the opportunity and the scale of the challenge facing Europe. It has emphasized that the prime responsibility for acting rests with the private sector, and that the role of the Community and the Member States is to back up this development by giving a political impetus, creating a clear and stable regulatory framework and by setting an example in areas of their direct responsibility.

The Commission fully supports these conclusions. It welcomes the European Council's invitations (a) to the Council and the European Parliament to adopt before the end of this year measures already proposed by the Commission and (b) to itself to establish a work programme for the remaining measures needed at the Community level.

This Communication is a response to that invitation, and the signal that the information society challenge is effectively being taken up. The momentum established since the publication of the White Paper must be maintained. But it is not sufficient merely to act; there is a need for a consistent response by Europe to the challenge, avoiding initiatives which neutralise each other or are mutually incompatible. A global, coherent and balanced approach of mutually supportive measures is called for. The Community will assume its responsibilities for setting the appropriate regulatory environment. In parallel, the private sector is invited to play its enterpreneurial role and launch without delay concrete intiatives for the prompt deployment of the information society. While a number of proposals have already been made and are under consideration, there is a need for new proposals in a number of areas. This Communication presents an overview of the Commission's work programme on the information society. It constitutes an action framework within which a series of relevant policies will be articulated and more specialised Communications will be released. The Commission's response covers four areas:

The Commission invites the Council and the European Parliament, as well as the Social and Economic Committee and the Committee of Regions, to debate the issues and give political backing to the development of this action plan.

I. REGULATORY AND LEGAL FRAMEWORK

The CORFU Summit's Presidency's conclusions underline the importance of backing up the efforts of the private sector with the rapid establishment of a clear and stable regulatory framework, notably with regards to market access, compatibility between networks, intellectual property rights, data protection and copyright. As a response, the Commission proposes a broad regulatory framework package (cf. Annex 1 and 2), while preserving missions of public interest according to the principles of universality, equality and continuity. More specific Communications will follow, covering different areas outlined below.

Of central importance to the development of the European information society is the need to safeguard the free circulation of services across our internal frontiers. Given the range of measures that might be necessary, the Commission will, as a matter of importance, set such issues in the context of an Internal Market framework, with the view to guaranteeing a level playing field.

1. Towards a competitive environment

2. Standardisation, interconnection and interoperability