EU Plans to Lead Transition to Web 3.0

Stephen Yagielowicz
LOS ANGELES — Europe is planning to take the lead in rolling out the next generation of Internet services, with the European Commission releasing an outline of the steps that Europe will take to usher in "the next wave of the Information Revolution."

Heralding an intensification in social networking, on-line business services, "nomadic services" enabled by GPS and mobile TV, along with the growth of smart tags, the report highlights the EU's advantages in developing these technologies, due to its support of open, competitive telecom networks and liberal privacy and security regulations.

"The Internet of the future will radically change our society," EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media Viviane Reding said. "Web 3.0 means seamless 'anytime, anywhere' business, entertainment and social networking over fast reliable and secure networks. It means the end of the divide between mobile and fixed lines. It signals a tenfold quantum leap in the scale of the digital universe by 2015."

The Commission is currently seeking "private sector responses to these opportunities."

"Europe has the know-how and the network capacity to lead this transformation," Reding added. "We must make sure that Web 3.0 is made and used in Europe."

According to the Commission, European Internet users are enjoying faster and cheaper Internet services; with half receiving broadband access at more than two megabits per second (MBps) in late 2007 — double the average speed of the previous year — and a rate fast enough to support Internet television.

A reported 70 percent of the rural population of the 27 EU Member States has access to broadband Internet — up eight percent over the previous year — with a total coverage of 93 percent of the population having high-speed access availability.

As this level of access increases both in its coverage and performance, new technology applications that provide "wireless interaction between machines, vehicles, appliances, sensors and many other devices" will be enabled.

Uses for this technology include Visa's plans to allow mobile users to exchange payment information to pay for goods ad services — with such technology predicted to be in more than one billion phones by 2015.

The Commission also wants to stimulate investment in next generation broadband access by among other measures, involving local authorities who may facilitate placing of faster fiber cables during civil works projects.

A new Broadband Performance Index (BPI) was also released, comparing national Internet performance based on broadband speed, price, competition and coverage; with Sweden and the Netherlands topping the list, due to their competition-friendly policies and skilled consumers that use these advanced services.

Countries that didn't fare so well may be being held back by poor competitive policies that hinder investments in advanced technologies, which results in higher prices. Social factors including a lack of digital skills, plus low numbers of computer users and limited spending on IT infrastructure, were also cited as barriers to further developments.

Net Neutrality is the foundation of the EU's Web 3.0 plan; and its adoption may be challenging for some countries, but Reding sees it as of vital importance.

"One of my key concerns is to ensure that the Internet remains open from the point of view of service providers wanting to deliver new, innovative services, AND open from the point of view of consumers wanting to access the services of their choice and create the content of their choice," Reding said. "I need to ensure that Europe's single market of 500 million citizens provides business and consumers with products and services that best suit their needs."