The Closing of the Net  "original and valuable"  Times Higher Education

Part 1 of a series of 3 postings on the leaked EU TTIP discussion document

 The European Union could give away  unlimited rights to foreign telecoms companies to buy up rivals in Europe as part of the proposed new transatlantic trade deal  (TTIP).  This is one of an astonishing set of proposals revealed in a  Commission document leaked by the German newspaper Die Zeit last week.  The leaked document further indicates  a possible re-write of the EU telecoms framework, outlining  a ‘mini’ version of the EU Telecoms Package for discussion.  

 The document made public by Zeit Online is a leaked European Commission proposal for  ‘trade in services, investment and e-commerce’. The document is intended to provide  the basis for discussion  in the negotiations with the United States over the trade agreement known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).  

Buried within this document, barely attracting any notice unless one is familiar with EU telecoms law, is a series of  Articles that mimic the structure  of the EU Telecoms Package.  They address regulatory structures and powers (Framework directive),  authorisation, access and interconnection, (as per directives of the same name - to find out more about them see my book  The Copyright Enforcement Enigma Internet Politics and the Telecoms Package.

 Without a full analysis that would take a considerable time to carry out, it is unclear what the precise implications of these proposals would be. But it would seem that they form the skeleton of a re-work of  the current law. 

 This trade agreement therefore, is not just about import-export, but it concerns, at least in part, the  re-writing of  laws for telecoms service provision. In that regard, it’s also about re-writing laws  for the Internet.  

 We  know that the EU telecoms framework  governs Internet service providers, and hence it governs the Internet in Europe. Based on the 2009 Telecoms Package, and the current proposal for a Telecoms Regulation (Connected Continent), we know  how telecoms law can be manipulated to serve large corporate interests not only in the telecoms industry itself, but in other industries such as entertainment.

 We assume that the re-write will have to suit the US industry  interests who will be lobbying the US Trade Representative ( to find out how they lobby, see A Copyright Masquerade: How Corporate Lobbying Threatens Online Freedoms chapter 3).

 Sitting quietly veiled  and peeping out of this structure is a new bombshell. It concerns foreign investment in the telecoms infrastructure.

 Article 50: Foreign shareholding

With regard to the provision of electronic communication services and networks through commercial presence, no Party shall impose joint venture requirements or limit the participation of  foreign capital in terms of maximum percentage limit on foreign shareholding or the total value of  individual or aggregate foreign investment.

 There is no such provision that I can find in the current telecoms framework, and one has to ask why it would be needed under the TTIP trade agreement?

 If I understand it correctly, it is seeking to open up investment in EU telecoms companies, by removing any limits on the level of investment.

 In other words, this TTIP proposal would  permit US companies to invest in EU telecoms providers without limiting  the share they may take.  It could allow a free rein to US telecoms companies operating in Europe.

 It is public knowledge that AT&T wanted to buy Vodafone, although it has backed off for the moment, following the NSA scandal and the  lack of trust in US companies which would make it less likely for such a deal to be approved.

It  is unclear is whether this clause in TTIP would make any difference to a company like AT&T investing in European telecoms, and in what way? 

 More transparency is needed on TTIP process, and in particular, details of why it is necessary to use this process to re-work the Telecoms Package behind closed doors.  Most especially because MEPs in the European Parliament are about to vote on a related European Commission proposal  - the Telecoms Regulation or Proposal for a Connected Continent. If – and it’s still an ‘if’  - the Connected Continent is voted – how would the TTIP proposal fit with it and would it seek to override it?

Read the article in  Die Zeit -   EU will laut Geheimdokument Sonderrechte für Konzerne

 If you are interested in EU-US trade relations and intellectual property or copyright, you might like my book A Copyright Masquerade: How Corporate Lobbying Threatens Online Freedoms 

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This is an original article from Iptegrity.com and reflects research that I have carried out. If you refer to it or to its content, please cite my name as the author, and provide a link back to iptegrity.com. Media and Academics – please cite as Monica Horten, 2013, Lex AT&T?   EU Commisson’s TTIP proposal to revise telecoms law,  in Iptegrity.com  3 March  2014. Commercial users - please contact me.

Tags: EU-US trade agreement, TTIP,  telecoms regulation, connected continent, Telecoms Package, telecoms reform package,  EU telecoms,  AT&T, Vodafone, telecoms framework, telecoms law, Internet governance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten, European expert on Internet policy and Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics & Political Science. She is an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee on Cross-border flow of Internet traffic and Internet freedom (MSI-INT). She was shortlisted for The Guardian Open Internet Poll 2012. Iptegrity  offers expert insights into Internet policy. Iptegrity has a core readership in the Brussels policy community, and has been cited in the media. Please acknowledge Iptegrity when you cite or link.  For more, see IP politics with integrity

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