Posts Tagged ‘cooperation’

Labour wants to nationalize broadband. Be careful what you wish for

Digital Politics is a column about the global intersection of technology and the world of politics.

LONDON — Is the British government about to become the world’s next big tech giant?

That’s definitely what the Labour Party has in mind after it announced plans to nationalize most of the country’s broadband industry, invest more than £20.3 billion to create a nationwide high-speed network and tax the likes of Google and Facebook to pay for its upkeep.

As if that were not enough, all Brits would then get free internet access.

The promise has certainly generated publicity for Labour, which is trailing in the polls ahead of a December election. But it has also prompted plenty of head-scratching about feasibility, with backers hailing the plan as a potential engine for growth, and detractors — including most of the tech industry — warning it would lead to “broadband communism.”

The truth lies somewhere in between.

New investment, and lots of it, is needed to bring the U.K. up to speed with its global competitors.

Labour’s radical plan to invest in the United Kingdom’s internet infrastructure makes economic sense in at least one regard: Just like railroads in the 19th century, broadband networks have become a basic requirement for economic growth in the digital age. It’s a determining factor in whether a country will be able to compete in an increasingly intense global competition for technological superiority, the digital Great Game.

From the outset, the U.K. political party’s plans make economic sense.

Broadband investment across the 35 countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development led, on average, to a 0.3 percent annual boost to countries’ gross domestic product over the past 15 years, according to a report for Ofcom, the U.K.’s telecommunications regulator. In Britain, the economic benefit was even stronger, with a cumulative increase of around 5.3 percent of GDP over the same period, as improved access to high-speed internet bolstered wealth creation online.

So Labour’s plan rests on a well-founded idea — that greater broadband usage, on average, leads to greater economic prosperity. And there is clearly room for improvement in the U.K.

Existing broadband penetration (based on the percentage of households that have access to such services) is higher in Britain than the European average. But the country lags behind many of its European Union neighbors, as well as Japan and South Korea.

Countries like Spain and Portugal have a penetration rate of over 70 percent for so-called “fiber-to-the-home” networks, the next generation of broadband networks that involve running internet cables directly to people’s homes, according to figures from IHS, the data provider.

In contrast, Britain has less than 5 percent of homes connected to such ultra-fast networks, which are increasingly important in the build-out of next generation mobile services known as 5G. (The U.K. broadband coverage rate is increasing rapidly, though, as telecom providers compete to keep up with growing demand.)

New investment, and lots of it, is needed to bring the U.K. up to speed with its global competitors. (Both the existing British government and local companies have already pledged billions of pounds.)

But Labour’s plan risks delivering a death blow to an industry that would otherwise be providing that investment. It also flies in the face of decades of experience in countries from Japan to the United States that have been successful in building out their high-speed digital infrastructure.

In the early 2000s, for instance, policymakers in Tokyo realized that a national broadband network was key to the country’s future economic prospects.

But instead of putting the project into the government’s hands, Japanese lawmakers instead offered subsidies, tax incentives, and low-interest loans to existing broadband providers — a bonanza that triggered more than 200 privately-funded projects which, in turn, delivered high-speed broadband to some 30 million households in only a couple of years. Similarly in South Korea — where internet speeds routinely finish at the top of global rankings — officials relied on government incentives to private companies (including allowing the state telecoms monopoly to go public earlier than expected if it hit broadband rollout goals) to create a high-speed network that would make most Brits green with envy.

And the list goes on.

From Portugal to France to the United States, policymakers, often wary of relying on private companies to provide essential nationwide infrastructure, have leveraged the state’s economic might through government loans, subsidies and other financial incentives to roll out high-speed broadband. Community initiatives like this one I visited last year in rural England are also filling the void where national lawmakers have been slow to act.

U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn| Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Already, British telecoms providers are crying foul, warning that billions of pounds of investment could be wiped out if their networks have to compete with government-backed infrastructure that offers high-speed internet to the masses for free. There are also significant competition concerns that Labour’s plans may run aground due to antitrust fears related to rivals being outmuscled from the market.

Supporters of Labour’s plans would likely say that existing private efforts, most notably to bring high-speed broadband to the countryside, have been too slow, too expensive and too cumbersome. The U.K. government, they argue, would be better suited to the task.

But Brits should be careful what they wish for.

Greater access to digital infrastructure would be a much needed boost to the U.K. economy at a time of ongoing uncertainty linked to the country’s pending departure from the European Union.

But by going down the nationalization route where other countries have almost exclusively relied on incentivizing private investment, Labour is entering uncharted territory — one that would set the U.K. apart from its global peers in revamping its economy for the digital world.

Mark Scott is chief technology correspondent at POLITICO.

This article is part of POLITICO’s premium Tech policy coverage: Pro Technology. Our expert journalism and suite of policy intelligence tools allow you to seamlessly search, track and understand the developments and stakeholders shaping EU Tech policy and driving decisions impacting your industry. Email [email protected] with the code ‘TECH’ for a complimentary trial.

UK, US could take part in EU military projects under draft plan

A post-Brexit U.K. and the United States could take part in projects under the EU’s new military pact while leaving China — and possibly Turkey — on the outside, according to a new draft proposal.

The draft, seen by POLITICO, was put forward by the Finnish presidency of the Council of the EU and is on the provisional agenda of a meeting of EU ambassadors on Wednesday.

The document appears intended to respond to EU members with close military ties to the U.K. and U.S., who want to see those countries involved in projects, while also addressing concerns from other members anxious to exclude others including China and Turkey.

The five-page document proposes that a non-member of the EU’s military pact, known as Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), could be invited to take part in a project on condition that “it shares the values on which the EU is founded” — referring to an article in the Treaty on European Union that spells out values such as the respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights.

In May, Washington wrote to the EU expressing concerns that PESCO risks shutting American companies out of defense contracts and undermining NATO. The latter argument has always been rejected by PESCO’s leading advocates, such as France and Germany, who contend that the pact is complementary to NATO rather than a rival.

PESCO is a key part of the EU’s ambitions to deepen defense cooperation between national governments.

According to a diplomat taking part in the discussions, it’s unclear whether the language in the draft would be enough to stop Turkey from taking part — a key concern of EU member Cyprus, in particular — but it should be sufficient to keep out China.

The draft spells out many other conditions for a so-called third state to take part in a PESCO project, including that “its participation must not lead to dependencies on that third state.”

To take part, the third state would have to submit a request to a country in charge of one of the 34 PESCO projects launched so far. The country would also need to secure unanimity from all the governments involved in the project.

The document also sets out conditions that would allow the participation of the third country to be “reassessed.” If one or more EU members consider that the country no longer meets the conditions for participation, they can refer the issue to the Council. The third country “may also be heard” and the member states concerned along with the EU’s high representative for foreign and security policy will “seek adequate solutions within a period of two months,” the draft says.

The European Commission has proposed a €13 billion European Defence Fund | Olivier Hoslet/EPA

PESCO is a key part of the EU’s ambitions to deepen defense cooperation between national governments and make the bloc more able to take part in military missions, whether on its own or under a U.N. or NATO mandate.

The European Commission has proposed a €13 billion European Defence Fund, in part to fund PESCO projects. But so far the difficult question of whether and how much to involve allies outside the bloc has remained unresolved.

In May 2018, a group of countries led by the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg presented a document pushing for PESCO to be opened up to outsiders. But others, like France, were concerned that opening the door to U.S and U.K. companies would deny EU27 industries lucrative defense work, diplomats said. Austria and Greece were also concerned that the EU would have to offer Turkey the same arrangement.

In September last year, a five-page working paper, prepared by the EU’s External Action Service and sent to the Politico-Military Group (PMG), a committee of Council officials representing national capitals, proposed a compromise that the EU’s joint military pact will be open to countries outside the bloc but only on a case-by-case basis.

British MPs urge government to return to EU migration talks

LONDON — British MPs urged the government on Monday to return to EU-level meetings on migration after dozens of migrants were found dead inside a truck in Essex.

The House of Commons’ foreign affairs committee said in a report that the recent deaths of 39 people in a suspected people smuggling case should serve as a “wake-up call” to the Foreign Office and the U.K. government in general.

British officials started to withdraw from most EU meetings in September to free up officials to work on Brexit preparations and post-Brexit trade opportunities. Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay said in August that officials would only attend meetings with “significant national interest.”

But the foreign affairs committee now argues it’s important for the U.K. to coordinate on migration with the rest of the EU until it leaves the bloc.

“The U.K. has a proud history of helping those fleeing conflict and persecution and cooperating with others to protect human rights. We should lead by example,” said committee Chairman Tom Tugendhat. “It’s crucial that we plan our response to irregular migration together. This means that until we leave the EU, we should return to the meetings where migration is discussed and develop ways to keep channels open with the EU and others.”

The committee also recommends the U.K. boost its bilateral cooperation both with France to improve the treatment of migrants crossing the Channel illegally, and with Italy to ensure “a reasonable level” of search-and-rescue capacity in the central Mediterranean.

“The U.K. cannot expect others to prevent Channel crossing attempts if we are not willing to work together to address the root causes,” the MPs wrote.

In the event of a no-deal Brexit, the U.K. could be excluded from the bloc’s Dublin regulation, which establishes the criteria and mechanisms for determining which EU country is responsible for examining an asylum application.

After the end of the Brexit transition period in December 2020, the U.K. also faces being kicked out of the European Migrant Smuggling Centre, the Europol agency coordinating international investigations related to the Essex truck case.

The committee recommends the U.K. should “move quickly” to negotiate close future cooperation on irregular migration with the EU. This is likely to mean negotiating a replacement for the Dublin regulation and possibly taking part in future EU relocation schemes on a voluntary basis, the MPs said.

A government spokesperson said that tackling the “scourge of human trafficking at every stage of the migrant journey” is a major priority for the U.K.

“The U.K. does this by addressing irregular migration, from reducing factors driving migration … to strengthening border security and counter-trafficking operations,” the spokesperson said. “The U.K. government and law enforcement agencies work extensively with international partners, key transit countries, and the nations of origin to stand up to this global criminal industry that perpetuates human suffering.”

Powered by WordPress | Designed by: index backlink | Thanks to insanity workout, car insurance and cyber security