Saturday, November 08, 2008

Europe - compromises on reform proposals

European Commission compromises on telecom reform

The European Commission has presented new proposals for the reform of the telecommunications regulatory framework. This follows a vote by the European Parliament on 25 September that resulted in substantial changes to the EC's initial legislation. Since then EU Council members have been in talks on finalising the reforms.

In line with the parliament and council's views, the commission has agreed to scale back its plans for the new European telecoms regulator and create an agency substantially smaller in size and competences. The agency will focus on telecoms regulation and have no authority on spectrum or network security. In line with proposals adopted by the European Regulators Group, independent national regulators will form the heart of the new office, which will be called the Body of the European Telecoms Regulators. The heads of the national telecoms regulators will be given a strong role in the management of the new office and in the appointment of its managing director. The commission also accepts the parliament's proposal that 50 percent of the staff of the new office can be seconded by national regulators. Including such seconded staff, the new office should employ no more than 20 experts.

On spectrum policy, where the EC was seeking more EU-wide coordination, the commission has agreed to focus solely on pan-European services. This will include submitting a multi-annual EU radio spectrum policy programme to be jointly adopted by Parliament and Council. Member states will continue to be allowed to manage their spectrum in order to promote national cultural and media policy objectives, in line with the European Parliament's amendments. The creation of a new advisory body for radio spectrum policy, as suggested by the Parliament, has however not been retained by the Commission, in order to avoid duplication of work with the existing Radio Spectrum Policy Group.

The commission also reiterated its support for the parliament's amendment requiring judicial authorisation to restrict internet users' access to content or services. It furthermore supports the parliament's stronger emphasis on consumer rights, network and data security coordination, functional separation remedies and next-generation network investment.

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