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EU sees harmonizing telecoms and online content rules key to €315B economic growth plan

EU sees harmonizing telecoms and online content rules key to €315B economic growth plan

The Commission is planning to simplify copyright and consumer protection rules for online and digital purchases

Removing regulatory barriers in the European Union's telecommunications, e-commerce and digital media markets is one of the European Commission's top priorities in a €315 billion investment plan that aims to boost jobs and growth in Europe.

Regulatory areas under review include data protection, telecommunications, copyright and online consumer protection.

The plan must help boost the European economy and stimulate investments, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in a speech to the European Parliament on Wednesday.

"While investment is taking off in the U.S., Europe is lagging behind. Why? Because investors lack confidence, credibility and trust," he said.

Juncker hopes to fix that with his Investment Plan for Europe, a package of measures aimed at unlocking public and private investment of at least €315 billion over the next three years. The EU is planning an initial contribution of €21 billion, which will allow the European Investment Bank (EIB) to make loans of €63 billion.

"That's €63 billion of fresh financing we've just injected into the economy," Juncker said, adding that the EIB will be financing the riskier parts of projects, meaning private investors will be pitching in the remaining €252 billion.

The commission wants to remove remaining regulatory and non-regulatory barriers in major infrastructure sectors, including telecommunications and online markets. What regulatory barriers will be removed and how is still unclear, though. Juncker plans to propose a priority list of initiatives in December.

The plan of the Commission is to develop "a truly connected digital single market" in Europe through swift and ambitious legislative steps in the areas of data protection, telecoms regulation and by modernizing and simplifying copyright and consumer rules for online and digital purchases.

The focus of the fund should be to invest in infrastructure, notably broadband and energy networks as well as transport in industrial centers among other things. "We need far-reaching and faster broadband and smarter data centers across Europe," Juncker said.

His plan was welcomed by the European Telecommunications Network Operators' Association (ETNO) which has long been advocating the removal of regulatory bottlenecks and has said that investments in broadband are a pre-requisite for returning to growth .

"If you remove regulatory bottlenecks you will facilitate investments," ETNO spokesman Alessandro Gropelli said, adding that the plan is a very important file for the telecom sector. It is a change in perspective from the previous Commission that is very interesting, he added. "This is a new, strong position from the Commission side, which marks a step change with respect to the past."

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, online payment issues as well as EU technology policy and regulation for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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