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Interconnection and interoperability Two features are essential to the deployment of the information infrastructure needed by the information society: one is a seamless interconnection of networks and the other that the services and applications which build on them should be able to work together interoperability. In the past the political will to interconnect national telephone networks resulted in hundreds of millions of subscriber connections world-wide.

Similar political determination and corresponding effort are required to set up the considerably more complex information infrastructures.

Interconnection of networks and interoperability of services and applications are recommended as primary Union objectives.

The challenge is to provide interconnections for a variety of networking conditions e. Currently, the positions of monopoly operators are being eroded in these fast-developing areas. Joint commercial decisions must be taken by the TOs without delay to ensure rapid extension of European basic services beyond telephony. The European information society is emerging from many different angles. European infrastructure is evolving into an ever tighter web of networks, generic services, applications and equipment, the development, distribution and maintenance of which occupy a multitude of sources worldwide.

In an efficient and expanding information infrastructure, such components should work together. Assembling the various pieces of this complex system to meet the challenge of interoperability would be impossible without clear conventions. Standards are such conventions.

Open systems standards will play an essential role in building a European information infrastructure. Standards institutes have an honourable record in producing European standards, but the standardisation process as it stands today raises a number of concerns about fitness for purpose, lack of interoperability, and priority setting that is not sufficiently market driven.

Action is required at three different levels: at the level of operators, public procurement and investors: following the successful example of GSM digital mobile telephony, market players industry, TOs, users could establish Memoranda of Understanding MoU to set the specifications requirements for specific application objectives.

These requirements would then provide input to the competent standardisation body. This type of mechanism would adequately respond to market needs. Operators, public procurement and investors should adopt unified open standard-based solutions for the provision and the procurement of information services in order to achieve global interoperability.

World-wide interoperability should be promoted and secured. The Group recommends a review of the European standardisation process in order to increase its speed and responsiveness to markets. The introduction of competitive provision of services and infrastructures implies that TOs would be able to adjust their tariffs in line with market conditions.

Rebalancing of international and long-distance versus local tariffs is a critical step in this process. The Group recommends as a matter of urgency the adjustment of international, long distance and leased line tariffs to bring these down into line with rates practised in other advanced industrialised regions.

Adjustment of tariffs should be accompanied by the fair sharing of public service obligations among operators. Two elements should accompany the process: TOs freed from politically imposed budgetary constraints; a fair and equitable sharing of the burden of providing universal services between all licensed operators. Market segments based on the new information infrastructures cannot provide an adequate return on investment without a certain level of demand.

In most cases, competition alone will not provide such a mass, or it will provide it too slowly. A number of measures should be taken in order to reach this goal: co-operation should be encouraged among competitors so as to create the required size and momentum in particular market areas.

It is recommended to promote public awareness. Particular attention should be paid to the small and medium sized business sector, public administrations and the younger generation.

In addition, everyone involved in building up the information society must be in a position to adapt strategies and forge alliances to enable them to contribute to, and benefit from, overall growth in the field.

Secure the world-wide dimension The Group recommends that the openness of the European market should find its counterpart in markets and networks of other regions of the world.

It is of paramount importance for Europe that adequate steps are taken to guarantee equal access. Since information infrastructures are borderless in an open market environment, the information society has an essentially global dimension. The actions advocated in this Report will lead to a truly open environment, where access is provided to all players. This openness should find its counterpart in markets and networks of other regions of the world.

It is obviously of paramount importance for Europe that adequate steps are taken to guarantee equal access.




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Recommendations to the European Council





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