Next June, we will vote for renewing the European Parliament. Up to now however, I heard about names and general great ideals only. No specific ideas, and no projects.
I think that to be politically involved means to realize concrete ideas and projects to improve citizens’ life.
Hence, I presumptuously tried to imagine what I would do if I were a Member of the European Parliament (MEP).
If I were a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) I would commit myself in realising one great project only,
enable the building of the “highways” which would allow all European citizens, business and institutions, wherever they are, to actively participate, as protagonists, in the Knowledge Society.
Since I don’t like to attack from under cover, in a fit of faith into the future during the last weeks of the past year, I really tried to write down a project, and I called it,
A Broadband Future for Europe.
To build a European superfast Broadband Network based on fiber optic.
For a forward-looking Europe.
A nine-page project I so divided,
- A Fiber Optic European Network
- Government interventions
- Final remarks
As you can see, I also tried to imagine a logo and a motto which seemed appropriate for the spirit of my idea,
Connected to Europe
Despite what could be thought, the motivating factor was not technology, but a view of sustainable life, development models which could lead to a marked improvement of welfare in Europe.
I don’t talk of this subject by hearsay, but from experience. I am 39 years old, and I work on information and communication technologies, in general on “network” technologies applied to people’s life; I had proof of how those technologies can markedly improve the quality of existence in the respect of diversity.
As a matter of fact, it is fully proven by a wide documentation that a European fiber optic network would have economic benefits and lead to a marked improvement of welfare; here follow the benefits I think to be more significant,
- An increase in the GDP over 1% per year for the next twenty years;
- The European companies will be more competitive, innovative, efficient, helping the development of new inventions, new goods and services, new processes, new business models, and increasing flexibility;
- The creation of new markets for businesses, and new jobs for Europeans – OECD data have marked that every 1% increasing of the penetration rate of Broadband leads to an increase of the employment rate of 0,3% per year;
- The improvement in welfare and life quality will allow new forms of job organisation, more flexible in time and place of working (teleworking), will contribute to improve the situation of pollution and of the city traffic congestion; will contribute to the revitalization of the local communities and economies, and to a better balance between job and family;
- The creation of family enterprises will contribute to the birth of new businesses, of a new business mentality, and to a greater dynamism in economy;
- Benefits for the consumers, allowing the access to information, allowing the comparison between prices and features of the products, with a downward pressure on prices, and with the opportunity, through one’s own choices, to affect the features and the quality of goods and services;
- The improvement in the relations between citizens and businesses and the public administrations, and between public administrations, making them more economic and efficient, allowing the on-line handling of administrative processes, and of document and information transfer;
- The supporting of the new model of widespread participation to the network, based on the creation of contents by the users, making less and less defined the separation between those who produce contents and those who consume contents; not only stimulating the participation and the creation of a mass intelligence for the common weal, for a higher democratization of media, but also accelerating the information exchange, so promptly supporting the choices of the market;
- The strengthening of the media diversity, in order to balance their “weight”;
- The offer of the same opportunities to all and everyone, wherever they are, in the centre as in the periphery, with the strong attenuation of the very concept of periphery and the decrease in the risk of a forced and dangerous conurbation, so contributing to improve the quality of life.
In Europe, small and medium businesses are fighting against competitors from countries where superfast Broadband Internet is cheap, reliable and widespread.
Our kids are growing in a world where students from other countries have superfast Broadband connections available in each classroom.
All over the world, a new generation of activities is flourishing in the service sector, activities brought together by the instantaneous transfer of information through the global telecommunication networks – but Europe is likely to drop behind.
In year 2006, the United Nations “promoted” the access to Broadband Internet to the rank of utility, defining it “as necessary as water and electricity”.
In the world where we live “the poverty of knowledge is the prelude to the economic poverty” (Mario Draghi – Governor of the Bank of Italy) and the most recent OECD data have shown a very high correlation (coefficient 0,67) between the values of the GDP per capita and the penetration of the Broadband, which allows the access to knowledge.
The future productivity of Europe, her competitiveness, her sustainable development and the creation of welfare depend upon the creation of first class infrastructures. In the global economy of 21st century, no infrastructure is more crucial than the advanced telecommunication networks.
We can ill afford to lose the opportunity of capitalizing the creativity and inventiveness of Europeans because of our delay in the development of superfast Broadband network infrastructures in respect to our competitors. Without a strong, decisive action, we will further give way to those countries who are investing billions of euros in the telecommunication networks of the future.
The small businesses will not take advantage of useful applications for the growth of their productivity.
Our kids will not be able to reach extraordinary education opportunities.
The European businessmen will miss the occasion to take part in the birth of markets which, in time, will be worth billions euros.
A EUROPEAN FIBER OPTIC NETWORK
By the analysts’ estimate, in the year 2011 we will need a band capacity of at least 50 Mbps (Mega bit per second) compared to the current 3-8 Mbps. This very high speed implies the connection in fiber optic, the only technology allowing wide margin of band extension, very low costs in maintenance, hence “future-proof”.
Fiber optic represents the basic structure of the Broadband in the future; with the close necessity of band speed, other technologies are to be considered as “additional and complementary to the fiber” (Corrado Calabrò - President of the Authority Guarantor in the communications), especially in the last mile for those buildings where a direct fiber connection is not possible.
In Europe, to revive the constantly declining productivity, but also to pursue a sustainable development and an improvement in welfare for everybody, we are in need of developing a great project to set up a European network in fiber optic FTTH (Fibre To The Home) which could reach every house, wherever it is, and where the FTTH is not possible, then FTTN (Fibre To The Node) to the nearest connecting node, making Europe a “fiber Continent”.
That network will replace most of the current telecommunication networks with the fiber optic, very much increasing the Broadband link speed in our homes and businesses, so that the participation, the entertainment, the communications and the services will take place in real time.
Some examples are listed below, but many others are reported in the project.
The new services and benefits the network brings – especially in the rural and peripheral areas – need a superfast Broadband network to be fully enjoyed. They are,
- drastic cut in the telephone costs for the small businesses and families thanks to the use of IP – Internet Protocol (ex. Skype) – communication services;
- advanced services to the commercial business which imply a high necessity of band, such as teleconference, videoconference and private virtual networks, useful, for example, to control the de-localized production stages; but also other services to support business processes such as supply-chain management, motor vehicle fleet management, on-line supply (e-procurement), electronic invoicing (e-invoicing), on-line research for staff, customer service, call center, on-line payments, e-commerce, coordination of internal production processes and between different companies as well, connection of the teleworker to his/her company network;
- Access for everybody to those services and applications which use is exponentially growing, such as e-commerce, on-line booking, on-line plane check-in, on-line payments, blogs, peer-to-peer networks, on-line auctions, on-line entertainment, on-demand videos;
- Advanced services of high public interest such as education (e-education), health service (e-health for the remote monitoring of patients, medical information consulting, contact with specialists, clinical information sharing, telemedicine), energy and teleworking;
- Widespread access to the information held by the public administrations (f.i., geographic, traffic, economic and social information), and to the public sources for research, culture and education (provided for by libraries, museums, archives, etc.). Beside that, information sharing between public administrations;
- High definition entertainment and television services, multi-channel and interactive;
Yes, but how to reach that target?
To realize the fiber optic European telecommunication network proposed above, Europe and the Member States, starting from the awareness of the strategic importance of such an infrastructure, should act on different levels,
- normative-ruling level, to improve the competitiveness in the sector and cut costs;
- coordination of the interventions to allow businesses and families to have always a clear view, so helping the planning of the interventions;
- financing apt to stimulate the realization of networks in those areas otherwise meant to remain unconnected according to pure economic rules;
- direct realizing actions in the “white spot” areas when, even if encouraged, the providers decided not to cover them;
Following therefore, nay making the OECD recommendations mine, and according to the policies already successfully carried out in some European countries such as Denmark, Norway, Holland and Sweden, or in Asian countries such as South Korea and Japan, the plans of action should be the following,
- Acknowledge of the private sector as strategic in developing well-functioning Broadband markets, but there are clearly some circumstances in which the government intervention is justified. For example, connecting underserved areas and promoting efficient markets.
- Governments need to actively look for ways to encourage investments in fiber optic telecommunication infrastructures. Civil costs (f.i. road works, obtaining rights of way) are among the largest entry and investment barriers telecommunication companies are facing. Governments should take steps to improve access to passive infrastructure (conduits, poles, and ducts) and coordinate civil works as an effective way to encourage investment. Access to rights of way should be fair and non-discriminatory. Governments should also encourage and promote the open-access (that is assuring all operators the access at the same conditions) installation of passive infrastructure any time they undertake public works, or new urbanizations – just think that the realization of 1 Km fiber optic network costs about 4-6% of the realization of 1 Km water main.
- Governments should help co-ordinate map-making of network routes as a way to encourage the rollout of smaller networks in need of interconnection. Improvement in the overall investment climate in a country should also benefit providers wishing to roll out new networks.
- Governments should promote the entering in telecommunication markets of municipalities and utilities, who are already favoured in terms of rights of way, passive infrastructures availability, and saving for example in the energy supply through telereading; in this way, they could also offer connectivity to their consumers. However, if there are concerns about market distortion, policy makers could limit municipal participation to passive elements only (f.i. the provision of dark fiber networks under open-access rules).
- Any government intervention in market that involves public funds should be technologically neutral, simply specifying the minimum criteria in terms of performances only, leaving companies free to use the best, for them, technologies. Considering the current urgency to have next generation superfast broadband networks, I think we need to resolutely consider whether the technological neutrality is still the correct line or, as I am persuaded, it is high time to recommend the use of the fiber optic. In any case, any new infrastructure built using government funds should be open-access – meaning that access to that network is provided to all operators on non-discriminatory terms.
Sure, somebody could object that it is impossible to win elections with such a project.
Well, since I am a quite practical person, I did not ignored that aspect of course, and in my project I gathered clear numerical records of the remarkable CONSENSUS such an idea could gain.
Listen now, you cannot expect I tell you all the secrets of my project!
I want to close simply pointing out that Europe, for many reasons, but above all for want of courage, in year 2010 will miss the objectives she gave herself at Lisbon in 2000.
For Europe, Lisbon means “stake on work, excellence, personal and professional emancipation” (Romano Prodi), but also fight against new forms of illiteracy, that today does not only mean not being able to read or write, but also not being able to understand the new languages to interpret, communicate and play an active role, as protagonists, in what happens all over the world, wherever we are.
To harmonize Europeans’ life, especially the young generations’ life, with the new world it is first of all necessary to connect them at high speed with that very world, wherever they are.
If we do not want to miss the next target, Europe must have the courage to be the driving force for the creation of a great, strategic infrastructure of fiber optic telecommunication network which connect every city, every village, every community, every building of our Continent.
This is, perhaps, the most important project to change Europe, at last, into Europe of citizens, and not only Europe of institutions, for a forward-looking Europe!
P.S. – What else to be said? This is of course a wide excerpt only of the project (you cannot expect I disclose all my secrets ), but I made my proposal and would like to know what you frankly think about it.
Clearly, being written by the undersigned, it seems to me to be a reasonable and promising project, even if ambitious; but with the help of a technical staff made by European experts, it can be realized for sure.
On the other hand, I must have made a really good and plausible work if a former President of the European Commission such as Romano Prodi, to whom I presented it for evaluation, has called it “an excellent idea”.
I repeat: am I too presumptuous to think I could inspire some decision-makers?
I already know the answer, I am just a dreamer, but I am at the disposal of everyone who wants to contribute seriously in realizing this project, please do not hesitate to contact me!