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Technology & Innovation

Launching Old Europe Into the Internet Age

Europe’s obsession with tradition has made its venture into the Internet age a relatively slow one. BigThink recently posted about Italy’s troubles with censorship, blogging and the government’s tight grip on the media. And despite easy access to the most advanced broadband connections in the world, one in three EU citizens have never even used the internet.

But the EU’s media commissioner Viviane Reding, who oversees Internet policy, is trying to change that.

Led by Reding, the European Commission proposed rules last week that would make publishing books on the Web much easier, with a strong backing of Google’s efforts to digitize publications. While such a move to increase access to information via the Web has received resistance from copyright traditionalists and Internet naysayers, it falls neatly in step with Reding’s work to bolster Internet use in the EU.

Take, for example, Reding’s efforts to change download laws: In June, she devised a set of policy changes that would make music and movies easier to access and purchase online — encouraging downloading while discouraging piracy. She also helped slash mobile roaming charges and has called on Europeans to switch from analog to digital television. Just months before Reding’s potential term renewal, she’s made it pretty clear that she wants Europe to forge ahead and begin fulfilling its e-potential.

She’s probably not going to persuade a good deal of Europe’s stubborn and aging population that installing broadband connections and shopping online is a good idea. But Reding does, however, have the Internet as ammunition in the battle to slow climate change, something Europeans are widely keen on. Reding wants to do things like make European businesses replace face-to-face meetings with video conferences to cut greenhouse gas emissions. With the Copenhagen Climate Conference in just a few months, it seems like Reding could get more than a few Europeans to jump on the “Internet-as-ecologically-friendly-tool” bandwagon.


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