EC Backs Green Benefits for Future Internet

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EU Commissioner Viviane Reding calls for a well developed broadband infrastructure, smart cities and smart energy grids

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EU Members must continue to invest in internet infrastructure despite the global recession,and use the technology to help develop a more sustainable society, European Commissioner Viviane Reding has said.

Speaking on the first day of the Future of the Internet Conference in Prague this week, European Commissioner for Information Society and Media Viviane Reding said that it was important to continue to invest in the future development of the Internet despite tough economic conditions.

Improved Internet infrastructure has benefits beyond the realms of IT and business and could help tackle issues such as climate change and public health said Reding.

“It is our intention to closely couple our Future Internet technology research with applications of high societal value such as health, urban mobility, energy grids or smart cities,” she said.

Using so-called smart grids – energy grids equipped with meters to allow consumers and businesses to measure power usage – has been supported by governments around the world including the UK and the US. The UK government is planning to install smart meters in all homes by 2020.

As well as touting the potential sustainable benefits of investment in the Internet, Reding also reinforced the importance of making sure that there is access to broadband across Europe to ensure that the region is as competitive as possible.

“My vision of the future Internet is also based on ubiquitous access to the Internet. Fixed and wireless technologies need to be widely available and interoperable to allow seamless high rate access to the Internet,” she said.

Reding added that Europe is among the top broadband regions of the world with “with more than 100 millions broadband accesses and leading countries’ penetration in the order of 40 percent”. According to Reding, the European Council has earmarked €1.02 billion for investment in broadband in Europe.

But despite backing developments that should improve access to high-speed Internet across the region, Reding said she was against proposals to prioritise certain Internet traffic mooted by law-makers and Internet providers in the US.

“From the governance point of view “Net Neutrality” is essential,” she said. “New network management techniques allow traffic prioritisation. These tools may be used to guarantee good quality of service but may also be used for anti-competitive practices. The Commission has taken steps to empower national regulators to prevent such unfair abuse to the detriment of consumers.”

The EC is keen to promote the idea of the Internet as a democratic tool and appears to oppose anything that jeopordises that. Last week Reding released a video statement in which she called for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to become fully privatised and accountable to a G12 style council of countries rather than just the US.

Viviane Reding image, from World Economic Forum via Wikimedia Commons.