European Commission adopts new regulatory proposals for a ‘Connected Continent’admin
Last week Commissioner Neelie Kroes announced the European Commission adoption of a series of new regulatory proposals in this memo on ‘The Connected Continent’. It’s been met with a mixed reaction from the UK. At the Broadband Stakeholder Group we will be continuing to keep a close eye and engage with these developments, and we’ve put together a quick overview of the main areas the memo addresses below:
1) Change in regulation authorisation for companies
- The creation of a ‘One-stop shop’ for operators operating in more than one members state where they will then require only a single authorisation in the EU for notification and a primary reference regulator (NRA) for all authorisations & other issues.
- Commission will have power to require NRAs to withdraw draft regulatory proposals which are incompatible with EU law.
2) Increased coordination of spectrum use to encourage wireless broadband, more 4G investment, and the emergence of pan-EU mobile companies with integrated networks
- Introduction of common regulatory principles for spectrum authorisation procedures for wireless broadband and establishing common best practice for defining the availability and conditions of spectrum for wireless broadband.
- Commission to increase power to organise peer review among Member States and to review national assignment procedures.
- Promotion of spectrum sharing and trading, including introduction of incentives for freeing up spectrum for wireless broadband.
- Promote the use and the deployment of WI-FI and small / micro cells to increase capacity, by simplifying the deployment and sharing of small areas access points.
- Removing a number planning restrictions on procedures for granting permits for base stations, or wireless hotspot deployment.
- Harmonise the timing of spectrum release and harmonise duration of rights.
3) Standardisation of fixed access products
- Standardising fixed access products (e.g. VULA, bitstream access and Ethernet leased lines) and Assured Quality Services for European electronic communications providers) will facilitate market entry and provision of cross-border services.
- In cases where operators with significant market power are obliged to offer competitors virtual access to their networks (as opposed to physical connections), both buyer and seller will face harmonised conditions and features across EU. Common criteria for assured service quality connectivity to be negotiated between operators on commercial terms.
- Removing imposition of price regulation on access to fast next generation networks where demonstrable constraints against anti-competitive behaviour exist in the retail markets.
4) Measures for an Open Internet, including guarantees for net neutrality, innovation and consumer rights
- End discriminatory blocking and throttling and deliver effective net neutrality, including VoIP services on mobile.
- Companies are allowed to differentiate their offers and compete on enhanced quality of service.
- Content providers may agree deals with ISPs to assure a certain quality of service. Specialised services must not lead to quality degradation of the “normal”/best efforts Internet.
- Operators required to supply (both public and contractual) information on the average speeds they actually provide to their customers during normal and peak times, data volume limitations, and on traffic management practices.
- National regulators required to monitor quality of service and may impose minimum quality requirements, under Commission control.
- Consumers can terminate their contract if there is a significant and non-temporary discrepancy between what they were promised and the service they actually get (e.g: speed).
5) Ending roaming premiums by 2016 or earlier
- Phasing out the difference in charges paid for domestic, roaming and intra-EU calls. Operators will lose the right to charge for incoming calls while a user is travelling abroad in EU as of 1st July 2014
- Operators will have to charge no more than a domestic long-distance call for all fixed line calls within the EU and no more than the euro-tariffs for regulated voice and SMS roaming communications for mobile communications to other EU member states.
6) Consumer protection measures
- Introduction of plain language contracts, where extra information should be included in contracts (including data volume limitations, actual data speeds, monitoring consumption and an explanation of the practical impact of the service characteristics on the use of content, applications and services).
- Companies to provide information on compensation, refunds and other user rights as well as how to initiate procedures for the settlement of disputes.
- A set of new contract parameters have been introduced including on contract periods (no initial commitment exceeding 24 months, and a 12 month-only option must be provided), contract rollovers (with a one month warning expected) and termination of contract (with the consumer right to terminate any contract after 6 months).
- On switching, the process will be Gaining Provider Lead (GPL). There is intention to amend rights for users (e.g. compensation for abuse or delays of switching). Any rule on contract termination and switching will apply to all elements of bundles sold to consumers such as triple or quadruple play (including TV).
- Mandatory availability of comparison tools provided by NRA or accredited third parties to allow users to know the actual performance of electronic communication network access and services and the cost of alternative usage patterns.
Additionally, the Commission will be able to block proposals from national regulators which go against the single market. BEREC will play an important role in developing the guidelines which ensure consistent regulation. The Commission emphasise the important of the stable chairmanship of BEREC. On the introduction of a single regulator, the memo states that “Until the single telecoms market is in place, the Commission will not propose a single regulator. This is not the optimal solution for the market right now.”