Friday, 28 October 2011

EU Digital Agenda: regulatory developments

We have looked at some basic economic and market trends, as well as broadband developments as they appeared at the time of the Digital Agenda launch.

We return to the Commission staff working document SEC(2010) 630 final/2, which accompanied the 15th progress report about telecoms (eCommunications) markets in Europe:

CORRIGENDUM
Annule et remplace le document SEC(2010) 630 final du 25.5.2010


COMMISSION STAFF WORKING DOCUMENT accompanying the COMMUNICATION PROGRESS REPORT ON THE SINGLE EUROPEAN ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATIONS MARKET (15th REPORT); Brussels, 25.8.2010 SEC(2010) 630 final/2 PART 1 (422 pages)

Since fixed telephony declines in terms of both revenues and volumes, I am just going to note the rapid rise of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony (page 34-36).


Telecoms regulation

The section about regulatory developments discussed the institutional framework, the implementation of regulatory measures, the consumer interest, horizontal regulation, spectrum management, as well as monitoring and enforcement.

Here are a few regulatory observations I found interesting enough to share with you.


NRAs

The EU member states have an obligation to ensure that the national regulatory authorities (NRAs) are legally distinct from and functionally independent of electronic communications networks and services providers, including state-owned ones.

One of the tasks of the Commission is to monitor the independence of NRAs, and it took action when necessary. Some of the critical issues were the institutional arrangements, the attribution of regulatory functions, the rules regarding the appointment and the dismissal of the regulator and the availability of adequate resources (staff, expertise and funding) (page 44-47).


Consumer protection

As the Commission said (page 55):

The requirement to provide transparent and up-to-date information on tariff plans, prices, and service terms and conditions is one of the fundamental pillars of EU consumer protection rules in the area of telecommunications.

Some innovative approaches were noted. One was the deployment of IT tools which allow end-users to test their actual broadband speeds. Online evaluation mechanisms enabling cost comparisons of alternative usage patterns were another transparency tool (both on page 56).


Universal service obligations

The Commission mentioned four elements of universal telecommunications services, which had to be available to all end-users at an affordable price and specified quality (Universal Service Directive 2002/22, here link to consolidated version of 19 December 2009). These were currently under review in many countries: (i) access at a fixed location to telephony services, fax communications and functional internet, (ii) comprehensive directory and directory enquiry service, (iii) availability of public payphones, and (iv) special measures for disabled, those on low income and with special needs (page 57).

Finland was the first country to take concrete measures to initiate a designation procedure for universal service broadband of 1 Mbps (page 57).



Ralf Grahn


P.S. Dear Readers, I am interested in national Digital Agendas (existing language versions), as well as information society plans and ICT actions in the member states of the European Union. If you know something, you can use the comment section or email me.