Günther Oettinger: Keeping it Specifically Vague


EU Commissioner Günther Oettinger at the #MCB16

TTIP, net neutrality, regulation of social media: Topics where Günther Oettinger seemingly has a lot of questions to answer. But the EU Commissioner on Stage 7 of the MEDIA CONVENTION Berlin would rather think about some lighter-weight topics, like network expansion, without having to state any specifics.

Digital Economy and Society

His job is to ensure a compromise for all sectors, stated Günther Oettinger, EU Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society. On the one side, the economy needs to be made more competitive, while on the other, "added value" needs to be created for society as a whole. What's more important to him? "Fifty-fifty", said Oettinger.
He had little to say about the released TTIP negotiation protocols. Oettinger vehemently defended trade secrets, even to the detriment of freedom of the press: "We can't be a window for industrial espionage." Information of that kind isn't shared in China either. "Our companies need to be protected". No matter the impairment to research.

Media and Internet Policy

The new roaming law has been effect since Saturday. Does this mean the abolition of net neutrality? Oettinger's answer is evasive. The goal is an internal market that he is trying to achieve with his Telecom Single Market Initiative. The law is better than nothing, he explained. A compromise. Oettinger refuted critics by speaking about himself in the third person: "The Commissioner doesn't want to be discriminated either. I expect you to trust me as the Commissioner."


Telecommunications companies offer some of their services without making claims on the data volume. Many critics see this as a threat to net neutrality. He would take time to think about the subject in the course of the year, said Oettinger, without positioning himself clearly: "We did not settle that specifically, but made a general regulation. The practical test is upcoming." The EU Commissioner wanted to talk about network expansion which, to his mind, is the key to everything.

Network Expansion and 5G

Oettinger demanded: "The frequency allocation has to become European." He criticised the slow expansion of LTE in Europe and has his sights set on the faster 5G. The fact that South Korea is pulling away presents a serious problem. Increased speed means no more discrimination. Technically, the expansion would be possible by 2020.

Traffic Management

He sees the expansion of 5G as the key to a new generation of cars: Nowadays, we have "connected cars" like the new Mercedes E-Class, also from Oettinger's home state Baden-Württemberg. In Bavaria, BMW is working on self-driving cars and a first test track is being set up along the A9 autobahn. The aim: Having driverless trucks, spaced meters apart, drive for kilometres along the autobahn. 5G, and a new traffic regulation set up for autonomous vehicles, is needed to be able to control the vehicles in real-time.


As opposed to ARD, ZDF or the BBC, YouTube only regulates minimally and without specific conditions. Oettinger wants to have decided if there should be a stronger regulation or deregulation in the media sector by September. The EU Commissioner made it clear that there wouldn't be any further regulations for digital start-ups. The search engines of the future "should be European".

Image: David-Pierce Brill (CC BY 2.0)