An Integrated Regulatory Framework for Digital Networks and Services


Europe needs to abandon its separate legislative silos for the internet, audiovisual media and electronic communications and replace them with one regulatory framework for all digital infrastructures and another one for all digital services, to ensure a level-playing field in the digital value chain. This is one of the provocative recommendations of a new study on the reform of EU laws in the digital sector, published by CERRE.

The European Commission’s ongoing review of the rules affecting the digital value chain is currently generating furious debate amongst industry groups, lobbyists, regulators and policy-makers. Amidst this clamour, CERRE has produced a set of original and substantive recommendations. They are the result of a unique collaborative project involving major industry players, regulators, policy experts and academics, including the report’s authors, Professor Pierre Larouche (Tilburg) and Professor Alexandre de Streel (Namur), both Joint Academic Directors of CERRE.

Other key recommendations of the report include:

  • Streamlining and focusing digital networks regulation to stimulate deployment and private investment;
  • Enhancing spectrum policy coordination to ensure, among other goals, that Europe leads in 5G rollout and mobile broadband;
  • Creating an appropriate framework for digital services by emphasising home-country control, limiting specific regulation by relying on general EU rules - e.g. internal market law, competition law, privacy and data protection law, copyright rules and security rules - and committing the necessary resources to enforcement;
  • Refraining from adopting specific additional rules for online platforms at this stage;
  • Overcoming national regulatory barriers through a more effective and efficient institutional design for the whole EU digital ecosystem.

These recommendations are sure to draw the attention of EU decision-makers, national regulators and industry players, as they seek to map out a new framework for the digital economy that balances the many competing interests at stake.

CERRE Director General, Professor Bruno Liebhaberg says:

The future regulatory framework for digital services must be ambitious and consistent. It should also be flexible enough to accommodate future, often still unclear transformations in technologies and markets and, as such, remain sustainable in the next decade. Finally, it must be conducive to the regulatory clarity, transparency and stability which constitute basic prerequisites to the crucially needed investment in the digital sector. Political will, strategic visions as well as assertiveness - in overcoming either structural and institutional rigidity and bottlenecks or just mere difficulties to adapt to a changing environment – will therefore be required on behalf of all policy, regulatory and industry stakeholders involved. This CERRE report is a contribution to achieving those ambitions in Europe.


Professor Alexandre De Streel, Professor Pierre Larouche