Friday, November 28, 2008

Europe - telecommunications reforms

Telecommunications Council - to move forward with four important dossiers on electronic communications

The session will be chaired by Luc Chatel, the French Minister of State for Industry and Consumer Affairs, who will chair the regulatory part of the meeting, and by Eric Besson, the French Minister of State for Forward Planning, Assessment of Public Policies, and Development of the Digital Economy, who will chair the part on promoting the information society and the internet of the future.

The "Telecommunications" Council will examine four main dossiers:

(1) Electronic communications
Ministers will re-examine the European regulatory framework, and in particular will take decisions concerning two draft directives from the Commission reforming the legal framework adopted in 2002, as well as one draft directive creating a European authority for the electronic communications market. These draft texts aim to underpin the rapid changes in the electronic communications sector and respond to new challenges, e.g. easier access to radio-electric frequencies, and measures aimed at protecting consumers as well as reinforcing network safety and integrity.

(2) International roaming
When mobile telephone users travel around the EU, most of them opt for "international roaming", i.e. a host operator assumes responsibility for providing communication and passes the cost to the national telephony provider. The ministers will attempt to reach agreement in principle on the proposal concerning roaming communications, which aims at extending the 2007 regulation until 2012, as well as extending its coverage to SMS and data transfer. The preceding regulation led to significant reductions in mobile communication roaming tariffs, of the order of 50 to 60%.

(3) Universal high-speed internet access
The very rapid growth in the use of high-speed internet access, its role as an essential tool for accessing a whole range of services, and its impact on competitivity and economic growth, have led to high-speed internet access becoming an essential commodity. These factors act as criteria in favour of reinforcing community and national strategies in the area. Ministers will hold exchanges on the subject, notably on the opportunity to include high-speed internet access within the framework of universal service provision.

(4) Networks and the internet of the future
The internet has become a strategic infrastructure that has played a major role in economic and social matters for the last ten years. New-generation networks (very-high-speed fixed and mobile links) will offer the speeds required by new services and applications. Accordingly, mobilisation at European level would seem to be indispensable in order to undertake the work necessary to deploy these new networks, and to play an active part in designing the internet of the future. Following on from the Commission Communication of 29 September 2008, the "i-2010" conference organised by the French Presidency on 9 September 2008 in Paris, and the Conference on the Internet of the Future held on 6 and 7 October, the ministers should adopt conclusions that will identify new challenges as well as the measures that need to be taken to respond to those challenges.

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