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Which Internet for Europe?

When the European Commission announces its new digital strategy on May 6, it will face a decisive choice between two very different approaches to the Internet. Will it choose a forward-looking, market-driven path, or a defensive, backward-looking, insular retreat?

BRUSSELS – When the European Commission announces its new digital strategy on May 6, it will face a decisive choice between two very different approaches to the Internet. Will it choose a forward-looking, market-driven path? Or will it opt for a defensive, backward-looking, insular retreat?

First the good news: the high profile of the planned announcement shows that the continent’s leaders recognize that the Internet can no longer be shunted to the sidelines of European policymaking. It is central to economic performance and to modernizing Europe’s industrial base.

Over the past five years, while Europe has grappled with its macroeconomic woes, the United States and Asia have raced ahead, reaping digital benefits. According to a recent study by Plum Consulting, information and communications technology (ICT) contributed nearly 1.6% to annual productivity growth in the US during this period – double its contribution in Europe. Perhaps that should come as no surprise, given that nearly 5% of US investment is spent on ICT, compared to 2% in Europe.

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