Reforming EU telecom rules07 September 2009
by inadim -- last modified 07 July 2011
The current rules which govern the telecoms sector in the EU were agreed in 2002. In this fast-developing sector, the regulatory framework needed to be revised, to ensure it continues to serve the best interests of consumers and industry in today’s marketplace. An agreement on the EU Telecoms Reform was reached by the European Parliament and Council of Ministers on 4 November 2009, after two years of discussion during the legislative process. The new rules will now need to be transposed into national laws of the 27 Member States by May 2011.
Telecoms are more than ever central to our lives and work. Economic and social activities alike have come to rely on telecoms services and infrastructure. The sector is changing rapidly, however. Major developments since the 2002 regulatory framework was agreed include the growth in voice-over-internet (VOIP) telephony and the uptake of television services through broadband lines.
In economic terms, the telecoms sector is one of Europe’s most important, with annual turnover of around €290 billion, and around 4% of the jobs in the Union. More widely, the prices charged by the telecoms sector represent a direct cost of doing business in Europe. Liberalisation in the telecoms sector in the EU, launched in the mid 1980s, has brought significant benefits for consumers. The price of telecoms services have fallen, on average, by around 30% in the past decade. Moreover, the introduction of competition has raised standards of service all round, making former monopolies much more respondent to the needs of consumers.
Although EU action has brought major benefits, there is still work to be done to create an effective internal market in telecoms, which would bring even greater benefits to consumers and businesses alike. Today there are only a few operators providing pan-European services, and one of the reasons is the different ways in which national regulators have implemented the EU framework. The internal market is fragmented, with the result that operators have to package their services in different ways in different Member States, and satisfy different regulatory requirements each time. That fragmentation is hindering effective cross-border consolidation, and often blocking or delaying the entry of new competitors to the market.
A new European Telecoms Body that will help ensure fair competition and more consistency of regulation on the telecoms markets has been set up. It will be called BEREC (Body of European Regulators of Electronic Communications and will replace the loose cooperation between national regulators that exists today in the “European Regulators Group with a better structured, more efficient approach. BEREC decisions will be taken, as a rule, by majority of heads of the 27 national telecoms regulators. A decision on the seat of BEREC still needs to be taken by the Governments of the 27 Member States.
The Commission’s proposal to merge the existing EU agency ENISA, in charge of network security, with the new European telecoms body was not accepted by Parliament and Council. ENISA will thus continue as a separate agency until 2013, when this arrangement will have to be reviewed again.
Completing the reform
The agreed Telecoms reform is the result of four years of discussions. In 2007, the Commission proposed a review of the telecoms framework following two years of consultations with stakeholders, with national regulators and with users of telecoms services. The proposals were then discussed in the European Parliament and by Member State governments in the Council. Following the endorsement of the reform package by the European parliament in May 2009, only one issue had remained controversial between Parliament and Council. This was agreed to on 4 November 2009. The Council and European Parliament have formally adopted the reform package and signed the legislative documents. The next steps are:
- Entry into force of the whole telecoms reform package with its publication in the EU's Official Journal (18 December 2009);
- Establishment of the European Body of Telecoms Regulators BEREC (spring 2010);
- Transposition of the telecoms reform package into national legislation in the 27 EU Member States (by June 2011).
Source: European Commission