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An incontinent proposal?

The European Parliament is set to carve out vast swathes of the proposed Telecoms Regulation (Connected Continent). As it currently looks, Neelie Kroes once-sweeping proposal to re-structure Europe's telecoms markets will be reduced to not much more than 2 policy areas - spectrum and net neutrality. And now the Committee of the Regions has waded in with a proposal to post-pone the work on net neutrality too.

The European Parliament really did not like the market changes that the European Commisson had put forward in the new Telecoms Regulation ((Proposal on a European single market for electronic communications and to achieve a Connected Continent). Neelie Kroes' proposal sought to de-fragment the telecoms services industry in a way that would have supported the large monopolisitic providers, such as Vodafone ( take-over target for AT&T?) to the detriment of smaller, independent providers.

The European Commission's defence of its own proposal suggested that the American telecoms market, with just two major providers, was a better way to organise things - this is totally in contradiction to European Commission policy for the past 20 or more years.

In the Connected Continent proposal, this re-structuring was reflected, for example, by the provisions for a single authorisation, and changes to the regulatory regime giving more powers centrally to the European Commission, and for virtual access products.

These provisions are due to be struck out under the proposals now set out in the report of the rapporteur, Pilar Del Castillo. Her report is supported by the Opinion of the IMCO committee rapporteur, Malcolm Harbour. (My own a analysis , but see also Innocenzo Genna's posting on this topic ).

My guess is that they would not have found favour with the British authorities (and Ofcom), allowing the British Conservatives (ECR) to oppose them. And perhaps also within Mrs Del Castillo's EPP group. Hence, it would be an easy move for Mrs Del Castillo to take out these provisions.

Roaming proposals look set to also be cut. With all of the above provisions gone, that leaves net neutrality and spectrum and a bits on user contracts - am I missing something, but I cannot see much else that would remain?

Now the Committee of the Regions has set out a strongly critical opinion of the net neutrality provisions. It suggests that Neelie Kroes' provisions in Article 23 should be "completely revised" on the basis that they would "contravene the principle of net neutrality".

The Committee of the Regions is concerned that Article 23.2 "could privilege financially strong businesses, or disadvantage smaller content providers and end-users". And it is concerned about the "vagueness and lack of legal clarity" in Article 23.5. It calls for further consultation with regulators and regional authorities.

The Committee of the Regions says that these provision are not yet in a form where they are ready for adoption. I think it can be inferred, that the Committee would like the net neutrality proposals to also be carved out, in order for more thinking to be done.

From what I can see, none of these concerns are addressed by the Mrs Del Castillo's report, nor by Mr Harbour's Opinion. Indeed, the rapporteur's report would seem to entrench the agenda promoted by the telecoms industry (See EU telecoms rules - smokescreen lifts over telco specialised services )

The Committee of the Regions is only an advisory body, in order to give regional authorities some input into European policy-making. The European Parliament is not obligated to take any notice of its opinion, and frequently does not.

In this instance, however, the Committee of the Regions' views do make sense. The net neutrality proposals of Neelie Kroes are botched and ill-thought through, and there is little confidence that an industry-captured Parliament will improve them.

They could, like all the other proposals, be addressed in the forthcoming 2016 review of the Telecoms Framework. This really would be the proper place for net neutrality policy in the EU to be debated.


For the background to the 2013 Telecoms Regulation (Connected Continent) see my book that tells the story of the 2009 Telecoms Package, The Copyright Enforcement Enigma - Internet Politics and the 'Telecoms Package' Chapters 8-12. The book includes background on the EU telecoms framework and how it evolved from the 1990s, as well as the policy conflict over copyright that beset the 2009 Telecoms Package.

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, The Connected Continent carve-out: what will be left in new telecoms rules? in Iptegrity.com 19 December 2013. Commercial users - please contact me.


Tags: EU Telecoms Regulation, European Commission, European Parliament, Connected Continent, net neutrality, Pilar del Castillo, ITRE, IMCO, Telecoms Package.


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About Iptegrity

Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I am an  independent policy advisor, with expertise in online safety, technology and human rights. I am a published author, and post-doctoral scholar. I hold a PhD from the University of Westminster, and a DipM from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. I cover the UK and EU. I'm a former tech journalist, and an experienced panelist and Chair. My media credits include the BBC, iNews, Times, Guardian and Politico.

Iptegrity.com is made available free of charge for non-commercial use. Please link back and attribute Dr Monica Horten.  Contact me to use any of my content for commercial purposes.