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EC adopts Connected Continent regulatory proposals

12 Sep 2013

The European Commission (EC) has adopted a telecoms regulatory reform package under the ‘Connected Continent’ banner, with key aims including:

-EU-wide and roaming-free mobile plans

-Simpler rules to help companies invest more and expand across borders

-First-ever EU-wide protection of net neutrality

-Abolishing premiums for international phone calls within Europe.

The EC sums up the main elements of the regulatory package as follows:

-Simplifying EU rules for telecoms operators:

‘A single authorisation for operating in all 28 member states (instead of 28 authorisations), a demanding legal threshold for regulating telecoms sub-markets (which should lead to a reduction in number of regulated markets), and further harmonising the way operators can rent access to networks owned by other companies in order to provide a competing service.’

-Pushing roaming premiums out of the market:

‘Incoming call charges while travelling in the EU would be banned from 1 July 2014. Companies would have the choice to either 1) offer phone plans that apply everywhere in the European Union (‘roam like at home’), the price of which will be driven by domestic competition, or 2) allow their customers to ‘decouple’, that is: opt for a separate roaming provider who offers cheaper rates (without having to buy a new SIM card). This builds on the 2012 Roaming Regulation which subjects operators to wholesale price cuts of 67% for data in July 2014.’

-No more international call premiums within Europe:

‘Today companies tend to charge a premium for both fixed and mobile calls made from a consumer’s home country to other EU countries. Today’s proposal would mean companies cannot charge more for a fixed intra-EU call than they do for a long-distance domestic call. For mobile intra-EU calls, the price could not be more than EUR0.19 per minute (plus VAT). In setting prices, companies could recover objectively justified costs, but arbitrary profits from intra-EU calls would disappear.’

-Legal protection for open internet (net neutrality):

‘Blocking and throttling of internet content would be banned, giving users access to the full and open internet regardless of the cost or speed of their internet subscription. Companies still able to provide “specialized services” with assured quality (such as IPTV, video on demand, apps including high-resolution medical imaging, virtual operating theatres, and business-critical data-intensive cloud applications) so long as this did not interfere with the internet speeds promised to other customers. Consumers would have the right to check if they are receiving the internet speeds they pay for, and to walk away from their contract if those commitments are not met.’

-New consumer rights, with all rights harmonised across Europe:

‘New rights such as the right to plain language contracts with more comparable information, greater rights to switch provider or contract, the right to a twelve-month contract if you do not wish a longer contract, the right to walk away from your contract if promised internet speeds are not delivered, and the right to have emails forwarded to a new email address after switching internet provider.’

-Coordinated spectrum assignment:

‘This will ensure Europeans get more 4G mobile access and Wi-Fi. Mobile operators will be able to develop more efficient and cross-border investment plans, thanks to stronger coordination of timing, duration and other conditions of assignment of spectrum. Member States would remain in charge, and continue to benefit from related fees from mobile operators, while operating within a more coherent framework. Such a framework will also expand the market for advanced telecoms equipment.’

The EC also listed aspects which have been mooted over the course of the Connected Continent discussion, but are not in the finalised proposals; to clarify:

-No single EU telecoms regulator

-No ‘Eurotariff’ termination rates

-No change to definition of electronic communications services provider

-No pan-European spectrum licence

-No ban on differentiated internet products.

Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, will present the Connected Continent legislative proposals for consideration by the European Parliament in Strasbourg today.

A detailed description of the proposals can be seen via the link below.

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