On the day when roaming charges became a thing of the past within the European Union, the next steps for the Digital Single Market were already being discussed at the Digital Assembly 2017. Markku Markkula, President of the European Committee of the Regions, stressed that EU citizens in all regions and cities must be able to seize the benefits of the digital revolution at the event organised by the European Commission and the Maltese Presidency of the EU Council, in Valletta.
Welcoming the end of roaming charges, President Markku Markkula said: "For European citizens, the end of roaming charges is the most concrete and visible example of the advantages of the Digital Single Market. The new rules specifically benefit those who are travelling, people living in border regions and the estimated 1.7 million cross-border workers in the EU. As of today, they will no longer have to worry about extra charges when their mobile phone switches to another country's network" However he also warned that: "In most cases people will still have to pay a surcharge when calling abroad from their country of residence. There is still work to be done when it comes to uniform prices for national and international calls within the EU."
The Digital Single Market Strategy of the European Commission seeks to tear down regulatory walls and move from 28 national markets to a single one. The CoR will contribute to its mid-term review later this year through an opinion drafted by Alin-Adrian Nica (RO/EPP). In previous opinions, the assembly of local and regional authorities has already highlighted the need to address the digital divides between urban, rural and sparsely populated areas. In this respect, it welcomes the establishment of the Connecting Europe Broadband Fund, which is expected to become operational in the second part of 2017 and should raise at least €500 million to complement the investment of €100 million from the European Commission.
"The economic and social benefits of the actual digital revolution will only be fully exploited with the deployment of very high-capacity networks reaching all citizens over the EU territory, in both urban and rural areas. The Broadband Fund is the first investment platform to support broadband infrastructure under the EFSI, the heart of the Investment Plan for Europe. It responds to the growing demand for financing of smaller-scale, higher-risk broadband projects across Europe, which currently do not have access to EU financing", President Markkula said.
During his visit to Malta, President Markkula made the concluding remarks at a symposium organised by the tripartite Joint Undertaking "Electronic Components and Systems for European Leadership" (ECSEL JU), which showcased projects developed under the Horizon 2020 funded scheme, and closed the 7 th edition of the annual semantic interoperability conference (SEMIC) seeking to reinforce the internet cooperation between European regions and cities.