The State of the Union speech, delivered to the European Union, made a number of key promises and objectives for the coming years including providing free Wi-Fi, improved cellular and home broadband technologies, and shoring up existing copyright laws. These are bold claims from a union struggling with numerous issues at the present time, including deep divisions between the individual member states including one, the United Kingdom, planning to leave the union in the coming years. However, the European Union is wishing to work together in order to achieve these ambitious projects. There are two main ways that the State of the Union speech addresses the planned changes to the EU zone when it comes to Internet connectivity and online copyright protection.
On the Internet and connectivity side of things, the main reason for improving how easy it is for Europeans to get online is so everybody benefits from this connectivity. There are three legs to this plan and in aggregate, these improvements should generate two million jobs in the European Union. The first is a new €120 million grant destined to provide public, free Wi-Fi "around the main centers of public life by 2020." Next, the EU are encouraging next generation, 5G cellular networks similar to how we have seen the American regulators push towards. The ambition here is to deploy 5G networks across most of the continent by 2025 and the thought here is that this new technology will benefit commerce and business. The third leg is to provide every home with 100 Mbps or faster download speeds, as a follow up to an earlier ambition to provide every home with "Next Generation Access" speeds of over 30 Mbps. The current number of households with access to this speed of connection, as reported in the 2016 EU Digital Progress Report, was 71% so the new mandate faces a stiff headwind.
However, another part of the speech sought to address piracy and copyright issues in the region and here the European Union is seeking to change and improve the existing laws. The first idea here is seemingly to duplicate changes in the German and Spanish laws that were designed to provide journalists, publishers and authors with greater rights. The crux of the matter here is that search engines are required to pay to show an article previews. To date this has resulted in fewer article previews, which has in turn meant fewer clicks and reads of the underlying website, which in turn has caused a drop off in revenue generated by the publisher. This change appears to be counterproductive in two core European Union markets and now may be rolled out across the rest of the region.
Another change is that the European Union is planning on implementing the Copyright Directive, which requires video platforms use a technology to identify those videos and works that have been "agreed with the platforms either to authorize or remove." This will empower the copyright holders and in practice it means that new media businesses, such as Facebook and Google, will need to screen videos before being published to the site to make sure that they are permitted. This in turn will require additional investment from these companies to ensure that they provide the means to filter out whatever content has been deemed not suitable for that platform.
Overall the State of the Union seems to provide both positive and negative influences for the European Union going forward. Planned improvements to connectivity are always welcome as are changes to allow copyright holders to keep their material protected, but rolling out the pay-to-show-article results in search engines policy does seem counterproductive. We will see how things transpire over the coming years.