Kroes’ final plea for EU digital harmony, Hungary mulls internet tax

Neelie Kroes, the outgoing Digital Agenda VP at the European Commission (EC), has urged the telecoms industry and EU member states to end digital divide. Speaking at the Broadband World Forum in Amsterdam, Kroes claimed Europe is still split between “the digital haves and the analogue have-nots.”

Kroes said Europe must get its act together before it’s too late as Asia is getting ahead in leaps and bounds. “I am very worried that Europe is missing large parts of the digital opportunity. I am worried that Europe will continue to stagnate, that we will let look at success stories but let them pass by,” she said.

“I was in Seoul in South Korea in June, and I had the pleasure to take a tour of the Samsung research campus. It became clear to me many of us already knew: Europe once led the world in innovation and in digital technology, but today we don’t.”

The speech comes towards the end of Kroes’ five-year reign as the head of EC’s digital policy. Her time has seen drastic cuts to international roaming tariffs and consistent efforts to unify the European telecoms sector, which have not always been openly welcomed by the industry.

Meanwhile in other news, it has been reported the Hungarian government is considering implementing a tax on internet traffic. Under the plans internet service providers would be required to pay 150 Forints (about $0.60 cents) per gigabyte of data, however companies would also be able to offset corporate income tax against the charge.

The proposal has already seen strong opposition from the Hungarian public, with over 100,000 people joining a Facebook group to protest against it. Many people think the new tax would be unfair and ultimately lead to increased consumer prices for broadband subscriptions.

The Hungarian economy minister has defended the plan saying the taxing of telecom services, in its current form, is outdated and needs reform. The ministry said they could generate 20 billion Forints ($82.4 million) through the tax if implemented. But according to the Financial Times, Neelie Kroes has expressed concern for the Hungarian proposal, saying it would be damaging to the country’s digital economy, where internet usage is already below the EU average.

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