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A Tribute to Mrs. Viviane Reding

Outgoing European Commissioner for Information Society and Media (2004-2009)

"Strong competition and a functioning single market work in the best interests of European citizens and consumers."(11/23/09)

On January 1, Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Information Society and Media will step down as part of a reshuffle of the EC cabinet in conjunction with the implementation of the new Treaty of Lisbon which makes major changes in the structure of the European Union.  It is expected that she will be appointed to a new position as Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship.  (She previously had been European Commissioner for Education and Culture in 1999 - 2004.)

In the period from 2004-2009, she was, in effect, the "telecom policy czarina" of Europe.  As many readers know, telecom policy in Europe functions at both the national level with the longstanding multinational CEPT as the primary forum of national regulators and at the EC level with RSPG as a multinational forum in the spectrum area.  An additional complication is that CEPT has 48 members, including Russia, and the EC has 27 members.  But the EC is concerned about all social and economic issues in Europe while the CEPT is more focused - tunnel vision? - on the telecom sector.

Mrs. Reding (I have never seen her referred to as "Ms. Reding") was a client of mine while I lived in Paris.  I was appointed her "special advisor" in 2006 at the recommendation of Martin Cave(The details of the arrangement we made public the next year when a member of the European Parliament was concerned about cronyism in the selection of consultants by commissioners and demanded public disclosure of all details.  Unfortunately they did not publish the miserly per diem I was paid to stay in Brussels to talk with her and her staff.  However, I did get a first class Thalys train ticket between Paris and Brussels for the trip that gave me free coffee for the 90 minute ride.)
 "This is why (EC) President Barroso and I have proposed a 'Digital Agenda for Europe' to make sure that Europe focuses on:

    * the industries and applications that have the potential to lift Europe's performance and
    * the prominent place and role of consumers in this new environment"
What really impressed me about dealing with her and her staff was the focus on helping the whole European economy and society develop, not focusing on the telecom industry in isolation and certainly not focusing on the major telecom operators and manufacturers as most national telecom regulators do.  Sometimes her strong pro-EU policies irritated the US, such as her backing for Galileo as a alternative to GPS and using EU funding for a European Google search engine alternative.  But such "nationalism" was quite popular in Europe and I could see some logic for it.  Her office also funded a lot of telecom R&D with joint projects with universities and private firms and at time I wondered about the WPA aspects of this.  But her continued focus on both the European economy and European society made her a much more insightful telecom policy maker than FCC and its national counterparts in almost every country.  Telecom policy need not be focused primarily on carriers, broadcasters, and manufacturers.  Telecom is a key infrastructure for economies and societies.

"ICT also contributes macro-economically to productivity growth and
 increased competitiveness of the European economy as a whole,
 and thus is a factor in growth and job creation." --
COM(2006) 334

I hope FCC and other regulators learn from her legacy.

European Telecoms and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding delivering the 2009 Ludwig Erhard lecture at the Lisbon Council in Brussels.

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