In his keynote presentation at the Net-atHome conference in Nice, France, João Da Silva gave an overview of where Europe is with digital media within the home, what the trends are and where Europe would like to be in the digital landscape.
Da Silva is Director of (deep breath) Communications Networks, Security and Software applications, at the European Commission. His opening slide stressed the European Commission’s desire to create equilibrium between three parties, the consumer; technical suppliers; and content owners. They want to create a balance where the rights of the content owner and the consumer are protected, to try and level the current imbalance, as “there has been a tendency to protect the rights of rights holder over the consumer.”
Moving on to bandwidth, he declared that since July 2002 broadband in Europe has grown over 248%. Despite this he feels there is a danger of a digital divide over Europe – not between no access and some access, but a split of where there is broadband of decent speeds and where there is insufficient for the next generation of entertainment.
He highlighted the huge variation in pricing of broadband services over Europe, giving the example of the contrast between Belgium and France; the first giving a 3Mbps connection and the latter 150Kbps – for the same charge. While some felt this example wasn’t quite as simple as the headline sounds, as it ignored the population density of the two countries, it does point to disparity. He illustrated this further, with examples of companies moving their offices to get bandwidth. The message was clear, member states, get your broadband up to scratch or you’ll start falling behind.
The inevitable comparison with Asian markets was covered. Japan now offers 100Mbps over Fibre To The Home (FTTH) for €22/month (~$29, ~£15) and Korea offers 50Mbps over VDSL.
When discussing the explosion in content, Da Silva pointed to blogs as a major source of new entertainment – content created by the consumer, for the consumer. He quoted the growth of blogs running at rates of 20% per month and generating traffic of 8Gbit of traffic daily. The EC are generally excited about the growth in user-generated content, seeing it as a real option to, what is currently seen as entertainment.
Concluding his presentation, he reminded the audience that the European Commission’s Information Society Technologies (IST) programme has a four year research budget with a net worth of €4Bn (~$5.34Bn, ~£2.76Bn), equating to €1Bn year. He encouraged all with innovative ideas to apply.