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Telecoms Package 2nd Reading

This section of iptegrity.com is devoted to analysing the Telecoms Package Second Reading in the European Parliament. In it, I have published articles, papers and analysis notes  which took a critical look at the proposed texts and what they might have meant for European citizens and users, with a particular focus on the Internet and content issues. 

The Telecoms Package was  the review of European telecommunications framework legislation, (for full details  please see the other section on iptegrity.com labelled Telecoms Package). Over 800 amendments were originally  tabled to the two main directives involved - the so-called Better Regulation directive which incorporates the Framework, Access and Authoritisation directives - and the so-called Citizens Rights directive - which incorporates the Universal Services directive and the e-Privacy directive.

With so many amendments, covering such a broad scope of legislation, it is almost impossible for anyone, even specialists, to have a grasp of their meaning in real life. Let alone members of the European Parliament, for whom this is just one of many subjects, and where they are reliant on their assistants, who in turn rely on lobbyists. This is especially true since the real meaning of many amendments depends on how they are inter-linked with others. Following the chain of links, to figure out, is a complex task. However, when one does so, some serious consequences are being revealed.

The over-arching  problem is that this is policy being made by changes in the law. The scope of the telecoms framework is being altered via often subtle wording changes in the amendments. The changing scope is de facto establishing policy, and by-passing the correct policy processes which have been established in the European Union. 

 

To give an idea of the scale of the problem, one telecoms lawyer complained to me that he had  250 pages of documents to read through,  in order to analyse the Package and  do the job properly. What did he have?  The Council compromise documents for the two main bundles in the Package - Better Regulation and Citizens rights - plus the Common position for reference.  For those of us who have been with the Telecoms Package  since the beginning, trawling through this amount of documentation  is strangely normal. It also puts into perspective the enormity of the job for the European Parliament, and begs the question whether MEPs can really do it justice in the time allowed. 

If you like the articles in this section and you are interested in Eu telecoms policy and the 2009 Telecoms Package, especially with regard to copyright enforcement policy, you may like my books A Copyright Masquerade: How Corporate Lobbying Threatens Online Freedoms and The Copyright Enforcement Enigma - Internet Politics and the ‘Telecoms Package’

You may like my book The Closing of the Net which positions the story of the 2009 Telecoms Package in the wider policy context. 

 



Who gives Vodafone  the right to decide whether or not I need my Blackberry emails on a Saturday afternoon?  At the heart of problem with  the Telecoms Package, is such a very simple question. With a  few simple words, "conditions limiting access to and/or use of applications and services" the Telecoms Package reverses the users right to roam in cyberspace, into an operator's right to set up cyber road-blocks.   A licence to chill.

 I am grateful  to Celia Blanco for additional analysis which contributed to this article. 

 

I find it odd that in Europe in 2009, I am writing an article asking politicians  to protect free speech. But the Telecoms Package  represents a serious attack on our civil liberties, in a most sinister way. Sinister, because it gives the industries concerned the go-ahead to  use powerful equipment and turn it against their users, if they choose to do so.  

 

What is the problem with the Telecoms Package that Internet users don't like?

Basically, it is quite simple. The Telecoms Package legalises something the operators have already started doing - that is, selectively blocking Internet services as and when it suits them.

On Saturday afternoon, 2 May,   Vodafone blocked my Blackberry emails (Oh, yes, they did!). Now,  should Vodafone decide whether or not I need my Blackberry emails on a Saturday afternoon? My heckles go up. No, of course, they shouldn't! I decide!

This is precisely the policy question that  MEPs are being asked  to consider with the Telecoms Package. In a simplistic and personal way, I am using it to illustrate an abstract issue. Should the Parliament legitimise bad

Read more: Telecoms Package - a licence to chill

The fight to defend the Internet has been taken up by the three smaller parties in the European Parliament - Greens, Independents and Left groups. They have tabled a group of amendments to the Telecoms Package -  dubbed the Citizen's Rights Amendments - which guarantee users rights of access to Internet services. They provide an antidote to the Internet-limiting "compromise"  by the Parliament and  will have the effect of keeping the Internet open for users and business. And the reinforce the position taken in the Bono and Lambrinidis votes. 

 

A bundle of amendments designed to put the  user back into the heart  of the Telecoms Package has been tabled for the plenary vote next Wednesday by the three smaller groups in the European Parliament.  Dubbed the  Citizens rights amendments, (see below for links)  they provide  a formal guarantee of access for Internet users for the first time in EU law, plus  provisions which empower national regulators to oversee the users interests in Internet access provision.  They were tabled by the GUE/NGL (left) group, the Ind/Dem group (Independent), and (most of them) byt the Green group.

 The big problem with the  so-called "compromise" agreed by Parliament's rapporteurs with the Council, is that it is drafted to meet the network operator's perceived interests, and not users. Contrary to the rapporteurs' claims, it  actually bears the risk of reducing  

Read more: Fight for the Net in EU taken up by the left

Malcolm Harbour has launched an attack on Swedish Internet-defender MEP Christofer Fjellner. And the users rights directive rapporteur   says that the discussions around Internet  rights amendments 138 and 166 were ‘deeply frustrating'   because they ‘could derail two years' of work'.  Is there an   implication  that he has spent two years on an industry deal, which these amendments could squash?  It does suggest that  his amendments to the directive are not, as he claims, designed for users, but for network operators.

 

*** In this video, taken at an EU conference in Prague on 16th April, Mr Harbour says that "net neutrality and content" are "comparatively minor issues" and that "service limitations...could certainly include restrictions on access to services like voice over IP..customers may wish to buy a service with limitations if it's cheaper".   He is speaking about the Telecoms Package. His comments confirm the view that 'limitations' in his "compromise"  to the Universal Services and Users Rights directive, are indeed about blocking Internet services and "packaging" the Internet.  (Scroll to session 2, Mr Harbour is first speaker)  ***

 

Malcolm Harbour, the European Parliament rapporteur for the Universal Services and Users Rights directive, has launched an attack on Swedish MEP Christofer Fjellner,  in a letter sent to all members of the European Parliament last night. The letter (see below) asks MEPs not to support the users rights amendment 166,  and defends  Mr Harbour's own position (see also below).  Although  in itself  the letter

Read more: Malcolm Harbour “frustrated” by users rights

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States v the 'Net? 

Read The Closing of the Net, by me, Monica Horten.

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Copyright Enforcement Enigma launch, March 2012

In 2012, I presented my PhD research in the European Parliament.

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Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten. She is  a trainer & consultant on Internet governance policy, published author& Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics & Political Science. She served as an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee on  Internet freedom. She has worked on CoE, EU and UNDP funded projects in eastern Europe and beyond.  She was shortlisted for The Guardian Open Internet Poll 2012. Iptegrity  offers expert insights into Internet policy (and now Brexit). 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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