Kroes Decries Divided Europe

AMSTERDAM -- Broadband World Forum 2014 -- Europe's telcos got their final telling-off from outgoing digital headmistress Neelie Kroes today -- and boy did they get it in the neck…

Kroes, who is in the final days of her stint as the European Commission's vice president for the Digital Agenda (she steps down at the end of this month), followed up her recent tongue-lashing with another reminder to the region's telcos that they've been irritating her during the past few years. (See Telecom Sector 'Its Own Worst Enemy' – Kroes.)

"It's not enough to come to Brussels [home to the European Commission] and complain and ask for money. Don't just ask what Europe can do for you -- you are Europe!" she stated before channeling her inner Elvis Presley: "A little less confrontation and a little more action," is what's needed from Europe's telcos, noted Kroes, who reminded the audience that she is "Dutch, and blunt."

What she means by that is that the telcos should be more proactive in seeking out new and open business models and taking a leaf out of the books of companies such as Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN).

"I'm worried that Europe is missing a digital opportunity -- that it is stagnating … We have two Europes, one with a digital mindset and one with an analog mindset." Kroes acknowledged that "we have had some great startups," such as Skype and Rovio, that have fostered innovation and created jobs. But, she added, analog Europe is "afraid of digital, worried about jobs… they like putting up walls. They tend to be older and they want strong regulation."

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Now, the innovation centers are in the Asia-Pacific region, in markets such as South Korea, and Europe needs to do something to catch up and get back in the game. She added, "Our corporate and political leaders have a choice about how to lead -- are they willing to get excited about innovation and startups?"

Those leaders include the communications service providers. "I wish I had pushed the telcos much harder. They are locked into old business models, and there are too many leaders not committing to digital. Digital is a fact -- you can't ignore it," noted Kroes, before adding that "coding is the new literacy."

That is an example of how things have changed, she said. "We can't just try to re-use the models and ideas of the past."

Looking back, Kroes, whose job is being divided into multiple roles from early November on, wishes she had "deregulated more and focused more on net neutrality." The telcos here will probably be thankful that Kroes doesn't have another term as digital queen. (See Eurobites: Red-Letter Day for Roaming Charges.)

— Ray Le Maistre, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

mendyk 10/22/2014 | 1:59:15 PM
Kroes nest What is the EU going to do without an RDS (resident digital scold)?
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