Five reasons why Europe lags behind on high-speed internet

Connectivity and low latency times are crucial for economic progress in developed states. While European policymakers don’t shy away from grand plans to keep the continent competitive, the essential ingredient for a successful digital strategy is the creation of a real digital single market within the European Union. Here are five major reasons why Europe is lagging behind the United States and parts of Asia, along with a possible solution.

A lack of incentives for long-lasting investments in broadband

Countries like Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom see broadband spectrum mainly as a cash cow for public finances, and not as necessary infrastructure for economic growth in the information age.

As such, broadband spectrum is auctioned off to the highest-bidding companies which typically keep that spectrum for 20 years. Given the fact that telecom companies paid over €600 per resident in these countries, they would have to charge €30 a year per user just to amortize the spectrum license fees they paid before losing the license after two decades.

Those lucky companies that win the spectrum auctions have very little wiggle room to invest in building out the network after paying an average of €50bn per market for the licenses.

Thankfully, the EU recently reformed and partially harmonized the process of awarding spectrum for data to telecommunications providers. But instead of awarding spectrum permanently to the auction winners – and therefore creating a secondary spectrum market – they mainly increased the usage time to 25 years.

Europe’s export powerhouse falls behind digitally

Germany, the EU’s largest member state, has one of the worst developed broadband accessibility in the entire economic area. One out of 11 households does not receive a 3G signal in their home. Only Slovakia ranks lower. One out of nine rural households do not have access to broadband DSL internet, and merely 65 per cent of households have access to the internet at a rate faster than 100Mbps.

Germany’s southern neighbour, Switzerland, on the other hand, provides nigh-on 100 per cent access to speeds beyond 100Mbps. Germany’s weak performance when it comes to broadband infrastructure is especially surprising given that, as the EU country with the fifth densest population, network infrastructure per square kilometre should be much cheaper and easier to improve.

Market entry barriers within the single market

Despite having a single market, there are still many barriers for telecom companies based in one EU country that wishing to enter the market in another member state. Pre-selections by regulators on which companies are even allowed to bid for spectrum licenses, complicated and dispersed application procedures for licenses, and other red tape hinder innovative competitors from entering telecom markets.

The European commission needs to be bold in breaking through these barriers in order to enable consolidation of telecommunication and broadband markets in Europe. This would allow consumers faster connections at lower prices.

The missed opportunity of 5G

A report from last year estimates that, by 2025, half of all American households will have access to ultra high-speed 5G network technology. In contrast, the figure is 31 per cent in Europe. Indeed, some of its major members like Germany and Italy will most likely have even lower levels of coverage due to their spectrum auctioning systems.

By overcharging network providers for spectrum licenses, governments trade long-term economic competitiveness for quick household surpluses. While fiscal stability is something governments should strive for, they should at the same time not take broadband spectrum and future technologies hostage for these purposes, but instead fix their structural overspending.

Politicians fall in love with the wrong technologies

Instead of merely defining a framework for innovation, many policymakers and regulators too often bet on specific technologies and demand that companies use them.

One recent example of this was the EU’s push to determine ITS-G5 technology as the way for autonomous vehicles to communicate with surrounding cars. A more innovation-friendly solution would be to simply define the maximum tolerated latency of the communication and then let various solutions compete on the market against each other. The EU mandate for specific catalytic converters on motor vehicles displays the same worrying trend.

It’s hard to imagine that the DVD would have emerged if governments had mandated that all video material be stored on VHS cassettes. A “tech-neutral” approach to regulation allows consumers to access newer and better technologies without having to wait for legislative changes.

Europe still has a long way to go before it can fully achieve a digital single market for its hundreds of millions of consumers. It must now turn its attention to breaking down barriers within the single market and reducing artificial costs for network providers. Both would reflect positively on the network quality and phone bill of consumers. Upcoming decades will be defined by digital innovations, and Europe must adopt smart policies to keep up for the sake of its consumers.

Fred Roeder is Managing Director of the Consumer Choice Center.

Originally published at https://1828uk.com/2019/03/19/five-reasons-why-europe-lags-behind-on-high-speed-internet-2/

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About Fred Roeder

Fred Roder has been working in the field of grassroots activism for over eight years. He is a Health Economist from Germany and has worked in healthcare reform and market access in North America, Europe, and several former Soviet Republics. One of his passions is to analyze how disruptive industries and technologies allow consumers more choice at a lower cost. Fred is very interested in consumer choice and regulatory trends in the following industries: FMCG, Sharing Economy, Airlines. In 2014 he organized a protest in Berlin advocating for competition in the Taxi market. Fred has traveled to 100 countries and is looking forward to visiting the other half of the world’s countries. Among many op-eds and media appearances, he has been published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Wirtschaftswoche, Die Welt, the BBC, SunTV, ABC Portland News, Montreal Gazette, Handelsblatt, Huffington Post Germany, CityAM. L’Agefi, and The Guardian. Since 2012 he serves as an Associated Researcher at the Montreal Economic Institute.

Is it time to scrap the TV licence?

by Richard Mason – Research Fellow at Consumer Choice Center

About half a century ago, Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter wrote in his book Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy about a concept he called ‘creative destruction’. Derived from the previous works of Marx, Schumpeter perceived economic growth under capitalism as a destructive force by which entrepreneurs, in discovering new and exciting innovations, render existing business models obsolete.

Interestingly, for a theory so heavily based on Marxist thought, creative destruction has become pretty accepted amongst many free-marketeers. Clearly, it’s brought remarkable benefits to consumers. It seems a necessary and actually pretty healthy part of a capitalist system which has driven human progress like no other economic system before. Just as we know that the introduction of widely-available cars made horse-drawn carriages outmoded, many believe that new technologies like Uber will have the same effect on the black cab. Ex-mayoral candidate for London Andrew Boff wrote a great piece on this aspect of creative destruction a few months back.

Today, of course, this process is pretty controversial. While the creative-destructive process certainly brings with it numerous benefits like cheaper, better, and more-efficient services, it naturally makes life tougher for those who have their careers and businesses rendered useless by new technology, or constrained from change by the state. In an age where such new tech seems to spring up every day, it’s perhaps understandable that so many fear the rise of the machines.

And that’s the challenge for policy makers. Sometimes this can lead to an almost neo-luddite-esque rejection of new technologies and services, as we cling on to outdated but familiar solutions – usually with whole eco-systems of vested interests to back them up. In other cases, like Uber, creative destruction is actively embraced by progressive voters and the politicians who represent them. But even to them, one obvious example always seems to remain sacrosanct: in the age of cheap and available online streaming, we still have to pay for a licence to watch state-produced TV.

I realise the topic might seem a bit old-hat. I’m not sure that the TV licence has ever been particularly popular in the UK, even before the rise of Netflix and Amazon Prime. That’s probably why the government has had to put out such Orwellian warnings to remind you to cough up.

But with the recent announcement that the licence fee will increase to £154.50 from April this year, it is once again time to call the existence such an outdated institution into question. Some quick maths will tell you that, with the new increase, Brits will wind up paying just under £13 a month for the privilege of watching TV, the bulk of which will go towards the BBC and its projects.

Meanwhile, a Netflix subscription will cost only set you back £7.99 for a standard subscription, while all the other traditional channels are still funded by advertisements and, thus, free to watch. This is without even discussing the many other streaming services like Hulu or Amazon prime, or popular new forms of media like YouTube and podcasts.

With such a plethora of cheap or free options to choose from, it is absurd to expect Brits to continue paying for the BBC. It’s no surprise that so many are beginning to cancel their licence subscriptions, and rightly so.

Indeed, as with so many businesses, institutions and technologies before it, the idea of a mandatory licence to watch TV, and the state broadcasting service it funds, is at the eve of destruction in the face of newer, cheaper, and overall better alternatives – just as Schumpeter could have predicted. The question now, however, is where we go from here?

Sadly, the outlook might not be too optimistic. With the plan already in place to raise the costs in April, and with the massive reforms to the BBC that would likely emerge from a scrapped licence fee, there doesn’t seem to be many signs of the government getting with the times soon.

A particularly troubling premonition might be that the UK follows in the footsteps of Germany who, in 2013, simply imposed a ‘TV tax’ on every household, regardless of whether they owned a TV or not. The justification for this was that, since the state broadcasts over so many forms of media such as radio or the internet, everyone is potentially able to have access regardless of if they owned a TV set. As a result, every German resident must now pay €17.50 (about £15) every month.

Hopefully, the UK government won’t take inspiration from this, and will look upon streaming services as facets of creative destruction, by which our economy grows and we as consumers get access to far more choice than just the BBC. Let’s bring ourselves into the 21st century, and have a proper debate about doing-away with the licence. If policy makers don’t tackle these challenges, and ask serious questions about what is to be lost and gained, it’s consumers that will ultimately lose out.

Chers élus, laissez les trottinettes électriques rouler

Dans les grands centres urbains du monde entier, un petit nombre d’entreprises a déployé des technologies qui devraient être l’une des solutions les plus innovantes aux énormes problèmes de circulation et de mobilité qui affligent nos villes. Avec la nouvelle loi sur l’orientation de la mobilité (LOM), cet avantage pourrait être mis en danger. Par Yaël Ossowski, directeur-adjoint du Consumer Choice Center, et Bill Wirtz, analyste de politiques publiques pour le Consumer Choice Center.

Les trottinettes électriques sont des véhicules de mobilité intelligents qui proposent une révolution dans le traitement des problèmes de la circulation et du “last mile”, donc le problème de la proximité du moyen de transport de la destination désirée.

Comme l’a noté Jeffrey Philips, consultant en innovation, les trottinettes électriques ont fait leurs preuves là où le Segway, le transporteur à deux roues à équilibrage automatique développé en 2001, a échoué. Elles sont bon marché, petites, sans émissions, faciles à utiliser et omniprésentes. La génération précédente de Segways était l’un des outils préférés des plus fortunés, dont le prix était assez élevé pour bloquer le consommateur moyen, et trop grand pour être laissé dans les coins achalandés.

Il y a moins d’un an, cependant, la situation a changé lorsque les entrepreneurs de la Silicon Valley ont dévoilé des trottinettes électriques à prix modique pour en finir avec les embouteillages dans les grandes villes. Les principaux acteurs à ce jour sont Bird, LimeBike et Spin. Cette dernière a été achetée par Ford Motor Company plus tôt ce mois-ci pour près de 100 millions de dollars.

Appels en faveur d’une réglementation

Mais comme pour toute innovation dans le domaine des transports, les appels en faveur d’une réglementation ou d’une interdiction pure et simple ont freiné les perspectives prometteuses qu’offrent les trottinettes. Et ce n’est pas seulement la colère des consommateurs qui les utilisent le plus.

San Francisco, où pratiquement toutes les compagnies de trottinettes électriques sont basées, a interdit tous les trottinettes dans les rues en juin. Seules deux grandes sociétés ont obtenu l’autorisation de reprendre leurs activités à la fin du mois d’août. Seattle, l’une des pires villes en ce qui concerne la circulation, les a rapidement interdites cette année, malgré l’adoption de vélos sans port qui utilisent pratiquement la même technologie.

Tout comme les déploiements rapides d’Uber et d’autres comme Heetch, le déchargement rapide et furtif de centaines de trottinettes du jour au lendemain a incité de nombreuses villes à se battre pour réglementer davantage. Le projet de loi de la loi sur l’orientation de la mobilité (LOM) pose des question à ce sujet. Le document explicatif du gouvernement indique:

“L’article 18 donne aux autorités organisatrices la possibilité de réguler les nouveaux services de mobilité. Il s’agit d’accompagner le développement de nouveaux services (scooters électriques, vélos, trottinettes, voitures en libre-service par exemple) et de nouveaux modèles économiques tout en anticipant les impacts sur les autres modes de transport, la fluidité des déplacements et la gestion des espaces publics.”

Sécurité publique, ordre public, fiscalité

La sécurité publique, l’ordre public et la fiscalité (pas nécessairement dans cet ordre) ont été les principales motivations des organismes de réglementation. Le plus souvent, les villes ont affirmé qu’on ne leur demandait pas la permission. La mentalité ” réglementer d’abord, innover ensuite “ sera sans aucun doute un obstacle à la résolution des problèmes auxquels sont confrontées les villes à travers le pays.

Cela dit, des problèmes existent. Rouler à grande vitesse près des voitures et des piétons sans protection rend les utilisateurs vulnérables aux accidents et aux blessures. Le recours collectif intenté en Californie par des motocyclistes blessés en témoigne. Mais si les villes sont capables d’accueillir des vélos, pourquoi ne pourraient-elles pas en faire autant pour les trottinettes électriques ?

Une plainte souvent entendue est que les utilisateurs de trottinettes roulent sur le trottoir, ignorent les feux de circulation et les abandonnent dans les zones très fréquentées. Mais cela peut être résolu par une réglementation intelligente : permettre aux trottinettes d’utiliser les voies cyclables et de se garer dans les zones réservées aux vélos. Fournir des conseils clairs aux coureurs et aux entreprises.

Bird et LimeBike demandent aux utilisateurs de prendre une photo lorsqu’ils garent leur scooter, en s’assurant qu’il se trouve dans un endroit sûr et légal. Les contrevenants peuvent être exclus de la plate-forme. C’est une technologie qui assure la conformité plutôt qu’une règle bureaucratique.

Lorsque des applications de covoiturage comme Uber, Heetch, DriveNow et Car2go sont apparues dans la rue, les détracteurs ont utilisé des arguments similaires. Cependant, les villes qui ont adopté cette technologie ont réussi à retirer les voitures de la rue, à réduire la pollution et à offrir de nouvelles possibilités économiques. Les collectivités à faible revenu en ont tiré d’énormes avantages.

Aider la société dans son ensemble

Trop souvent, les études sur les effets du covoiturage examinent ce qu’ils visent à perturber : les navetteurs à voiture unique, les transports publics et les taxis. Plutôt que de nous demander s’ils affectent des industries spécifiques, nous devrions nous demander s’ils aident la société dans son ensemble. Et à tout point de vue objectif, ils le font.

Le plus souvent, les innovations qui résoudront des problèmes dans diverses parties de la société seront les initiatives d’entrepreneurs. Si les villes veulent adopter ce changement positif, elles devraient adopter une réglementation raisonnable et intelligente sur les trottinettes électriques.

Originally published at https://www.latribune.fr/opinions/tribunes/chers-elus-laissez-les-trottinettes-electriques-rouler-799648.html

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About Yaël Ossowski

Yaël Ossowski is a journalist, activist, and writer. He's currently deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center, and senior development officer for Students For Liberty. He was previously a national investigative reporter and chief Spanish translator at Watchdog.org, and worked at newspapers and television stations across the country. He received a Master’s Degree in Philosophy, Politics, Economics (PPE) at the CEVRO Institute in Prague. Born in Québec and raised in the southern United States, he currently lives in Vienna, Austria.

Don’t let cities ruin the scooter revolution

In major urban centers across the globe, a handful of companies have deployed technology due to be one of the most innovative solutions to the mountains of traffic and mobility issues that plague our cities.

Electric scooters are smart mobility vehicles that offer a revolution in dealing with problems of traffic congestion and the “ last mile” problem.

As noted by innovation consultant Jeffrey Philips, electric scooters have proven to be successful where Segway, the two-wheeled self-balancing transporter first developed in 2001, failed.

They are cheap, small, emission-free, easy to use, and ubiquitous. The previous generation of Segways was a favorite tool of the 1 percent, priced high enough to lock out the average consumer, and too big to be left on busy corners.

Less than one year ago, however, that changed, as Silicon Valley entrepreneurs unveiled rentable electric scooters to disrupt the gridlock and fumes of car-congested streets.

The major players thus far are Bird, LimeBike, and Spin. The latter was purchased by Ford Motor Company earlier this month for close to $100 million.

But as with any innovation in transportation, the calls for regulation or outright bans have dampened the bright prospects scooters bring. And it’s not just the ire of Luddites.

San Francisco, where practically all electric scooter companies are based, banned all scooters from the streets in June. Only two major companies were given permits to operate again in late August. Seattle, one of the worst cities for traffic congestion, promptly banned them earlier this year, despite embracing dockless bicycles that use practically the same technology.

Similar to Uber and Lyft’s quick deployments in 2011-2012, the quick and stealthy unloading of hundreds of scooters overnight kept many cities scrambling to regulate. Cease and desist orders followed by the dozens.

Public safety, order, and taxation (not necessarily in that order) have been the key motivators for regulators. More often than not, cities claimed they weren’t asked permission.

Beverly Hills justified its swift ban due to a “concern for public safety and a lack of any advance planning and outreach by the motorized scooter companies.”

The “regulate first, innovate later” mentality will no doubt be an impediment to solving the issues that cities face across the country.

That said, problems exist. Riding at high speeds near cars and pedestrians without protection makes users susceptible to crashes and injuries. The class-action lawsuit filed in California by injured riders speaks to this. But if cities are able to accommodate bicycles, why wouldn’t they be able to do the same for electric scooters?

An oft-heard complaint is that scooter users ride on the sidewalk, ignore traffic signals, and abandon them in high-trafficked areas.

But that can be solved with smart regulation: Allow scooters to use bike lanes and park in bike areas. Provide clear guidance for riders and companies.

Bird and LimeBike require users to snap a picture when they park their scooter, ensuring it’s in a safe and legal area. Violators can be barred from the platform. That’s technology providing compliance rather than a bureaucratic rule.

When ridesharing apps such as Uber, Lyft, DriveNow, and Car2go hit the streets, detractors used similar arguments. Cities that embraced the technology, though, succeeded in removing cars off the street, reducing pollution, and offering new economic opportunities. Low-income communities saw a huge benefit.

Too often, studies on the effects of ridesharing examine what they aim to disrupt: single-car commuters, public transportation, and taxis. Rather than asking whether they affect specific industries, we should ask whether they are helping society at large. And by any objective measure, they are.

Most importantly, the new innovations on our streets are solving what civil and urban planners call the “ last mile” problem, the gap between where one mode of transportation leaves us and our final destination.

More often than not, the innovations that will solve problems in various strata of society will be the initiatives of private entrepreneurs and inventors. If cities want to embrace that positive change, they should pass reasonable and smart regulation on electric scooters.

Yaël Ossowski is a writer, consumer advocate, and deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center.

Originally published at https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/dont-let-cities-ruin-the-scooter-revolution

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About Yaël Ossowski

Yaël Ossowski is a journalist, activist, and writer. He's currently deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center, and senior development officer for Students For Liberty. He was previously a national investigative reporter and chief Spanish translator at Watchdog.org, and worked at newspapers and television stations across the country. He received a Master’s Degree in Philosophy, Politics, Economics (PPE) at the CEVRO Institute in Prague. Born in Québec and raised in the southern United States, he currently lives in Vienna, Austria.

The Government’s ‘porn passes’ are a turn-off!

COMMENT CENTRAL: Bill Wirtz discusses proposals to require adult users to acquire so-called “porn passes” in stores to verify their age online.

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About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium.

Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish.

He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE).

He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.

Facebook Understands User Needs Better Than Congress Does

NATIONAL REVIEW: Market forces are doing a much better job of cleaning up the Internet than heavy-handed government regulations would. Ryan Khurana of the Consumer Choice Center comments on the Facebook hearings.

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About Ryan Khurana

Ryan Khurana is a Research Fellow at the Consumer Choice Center and at the Institute of Research in Economic and Fiscal Issues. He investigates the economics of technology, especially the impacts of the "gig economy" and Artificial Intelligence. His writings have been featured in CapX, The Huffington Post, and Rare, among others.

Keine Angst vor den Robotern

DIE WELT: Mit zunehmender Automatisierung steigt die Angst vor einem harten Schlag für den Arbeitsmarkt. Eine Reihe von Politikern befürwortet sogar die Besteuerung von Robotern, um einen Beschäftigungsverlust auszugleichen. Die Realität zeigt jedoch, dass Automatisierung keine Gefahr für Arbeitsmarkt und Verbraucher ist. Ganz im Gegenteil.

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About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium.

Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish.

He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE).

He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.

Who’s Afraid of Automation?

SPIKED: So we need to practice optimism about the opportunities provided by automation. The past shows that technology has often improved our living conditions, and raised employment levels. We need to allow it to do so again.

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About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium.

Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish.

He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE).

He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.

Beware the puritanical technopanic

CAPX: Early Facebook investor Roger McNamee has called for social media companies to be regulated in the same way as tobacco and alcohol.  The justification for such action, he argues, is the risk of addiction and their influence on public discourse and democracy.

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About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium.

Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish.

He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE).

He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.