* Post-Brexit, Juncker seeks to show EU works for voters
* Telecoms operators see benefit from proposals
* Reform plan expected to be fiercely contested
* Showdown seen between content rights holders, websites
(Edits, adds detail on reform plans)
By Foo Yun Chee and Alissa de Carbonnel
BRUSSELS, Sept 14 European Commission President
Jean-Claude Juncker announced measures on Wednesday to rein in
the world's technology giants, improve broadband speeds and cut
the cost of internet access, trying to rally popular support for
an EU battered by Brexit.
The reforms are likely to shift some wealth from internet
services such as Google and Facebook to European telecom groups,
which have largely missed out on the tech sector's surging
growth and have lobbied hard for more flexible rules that would
give them more money to invest in faster broadband access.
They complain that Google, Facebook's
WhatsApp, Microsoft's Skype and other services have
made billions by piggy-backing on their networks for free.
Among the changes, Juncker wants to roll back European Union
rules that bar the likes of Deutsche Telekom, Orange
and Telefonica from co-investing or sharing
network capacity. The Commission would expand rules covering
security and confidentiality for phone providers to
internet-based communication services.
"We propose today to equip every European village and every
city with free wireless internet access," Juncker told the
European Parliament in Strasbourg, without giving more details
of how the EU would help to achieve this goal within the next
The plan would also extend the copyright powers of
publishers, music artists and other content owners to seek a
share of the revenue which internet services make from linking
to publishing snippets of content such as news.
Juncker said the EU would also help to protect the personal
online data of EU citizens through legal framework changes. The
Silicon Valley tech giants are accused by European consumer
groups of stockpiling users' data for commercial ends.
The unveiling of Juncker's reform plan starts what is
expected to be a fierce fight among EU lawmakers, member states
and industry groups before it can become law.
The plan will add weight to accusations from across the
Atlantic that EU measures in recent years to protect competition
and privacy and crack down on illegal state aid are targeting
the U.S. tech giants unfairly.
Critics, including U.S. President Barack Obama, have said
the Commission is using tighter regulations against Silicon
Valley companies in the hope of creating regional versions of
Google or Apple. Last year, Obama dismissed these moves as
"commercially driven", taken because European tech firms "can't
compete" with U.S. rivals.
The tech industry expressed its displeasure on Wednesday.
EDiMA, a trade group backed by top U.S. and European tech
firms ranging from Airbnb and Candy Crush game maker King.com to
Amazon and Google, called the copyright framework more
1916 than 2016.
"It does not reflect the current environment in which users
access and consume content online and lacks the ambition called
for by most European stakeholders and consumers to realise a
Digital Single Market," EDiMA said in a statement.
Juncker's plans, highlighted in his annual State of the
Union address, will be seen as an effort to counter
euroscepticism by showing how technocratic institutions in
Brussels can deliver improvements to people's lives.
The Commission's broader efforts to create the "digital
single market" are seen widely as favouring domestic telecom and
media companies. Only eight of the top 100 global tech companies
are headquartered in Europe, according to an A.T. Kearney study.
Some of Juncker's consumer-friendly measures are also likely
to impact the telecom industry, including a plan for free mobile
roaming and wireless internet in cities across the EU.
In a surprise move this month before the speech, Juncker
withdrew proposals to limit the number of days consumers can use
their mobile phones abroad without paying extra fees after
criticism that the rules favoured telecoms firms.
He ordered the draft to be revised in what allies and
officials said showed the EU executive wanted to be seen to
listen to voters three months after Britons opted to leave the
Juncker said that the EU would work to defend people's right
to privacy, saying: "Europeans do not like drones overhead
recording their every move, or companies stockpiling their every
mouse click. In Europe privacy matters."
His copyright proposal could give publishers more bargaining
power with Google when demanding payment from the world's most
popular internet search engine. The outlines of
this proposal stirred controversy when they were leaked last
month but Wednesday's plan provided few specifics.
"The creation of content is not a hobby, it is a
profession," Juncker said. "As the world goes digital we have
also to empower our artists and creators ... I want journalists,
publishers and authors to be paid fairly for their work."
Google called the plan a backward step for copyright in
Europe that would limit its ability to help news publishers
generate advertising revenue by sending traffic their way via
Google's Google News and Search properties.
"After all, paying to display snippets is not a viable
option for anyone," Google Vice President for global policy
Caroline Atkinson wrote in a blog.
The Society of Audiovisual Authors, speaking on behalf of
media licensing rights groups, praised elements of the package.
However, it said the plan failed to provide an "unwaivable right
to remuneration" for European film, TV and multimedia
screenwriters and directors to make a living from their works.
Benoît Machuel, General Secretary of the International
Federation of Musicians, said: "What we need is a right for all
performers to be paid each time a performance is used online on
iTunes, Netflix or Spotify."
Grassroots internet rights groups said the draft proposal to
extend copyright for news publishers even to short sections of
news repeats the mistakes of laws passed in Germany and Spain,
which hurt publishers and internet users alike.
"We now have a proposal that is poison for Europeans' free
speech, poison for European business and poison for creativity,"
said Joe McNamee, Executive Director of European Digital Rights.
"It could not conceivably be worse."
The EU initiatives got a thumbs up from ETNO, the European
telecoms operators' association whose members include Orange and
"We need to ensure that the new Code (proposal) provides
technologically-inclusive incentives, allowing our members to
deliver a further increase in broadband investment," ETNO
Chairman Steven Tas said.
The telecoms industry had already lobbied against the burden
of the original proposal of allowing them to charge extra only
for clients who use their phones abroad for more than 90 days a
year or 30 in a row.
The European Consumer Organisation welcomed Juncker's
reforms but expressed concerns they would favour dominant market
players and do little to lower prices on international calls.
"Consumers need operators to compete with one another in the
market to deliver innovative services at cheaper prices," its
head Monique Goyens said in a statement.
(Additional reporting by Marilyn Haigh in Brussels, Eric
Auchard in Frankfurt and Alastair Macdonald in Strasbourg;
editing by Tom Pfeiffer and David Stamp)