Coalition urges EU Telecom Ministers to protect open internet from pro-telco proposals

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As discussions began at the EU Telecommunications Ministers’ meeting, a diverse group of consumer associations, digital rights organisations and industry leaders highlighted their serious concerns over the prospective EU regulatory framework for telecommunications.

They expressed concerns that the Commission’s recent initiatives could endanger the open internet and the competitive balance within the EU telecom market. These issues become more pressing in light of the established EU Regulation on open Internet access.

This Regulation, effective since 2016, guarantees end-users the right to freely access and distribute lawful content and enforces non-discriminatory traffic management practices across Europe. Such foundational principles are crucial in evaluating the Commission’s new directions which, as feared by stakeholders, may infringe upon these rights.

This coalition, in a joint statement, urged Member States to adopt a pro-competition stance that aligns with these regulatory ideals to benefit consumers and to reject any unwarranted regulatory interventions. The European Commission’s latest white paper, discussing Europe’s digital infrastructure needs, proposes several scenarios that might not only conflict with the Regulation’s non-discriminatory mandates but also adversely affect European consumers and the broader economy.

During the recent gathering of the Telecommunications Council, the signatories, including the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA Europe), raised alarms over certain Commission priorities that could pose considerable risks. Notably, the potential introduction of ‘dispute resolution mechanisms’ within the IP interconnection market could indirectly levy network usage fees, echoing earlier demands by telecom lobbyists for ‘fair share’ payments which had been previously eschewed under current EU guidelines.

Furthermore, the Commission proposes to expand the responsibilities set by the European Electronic Communications Code from telecom operators to cloud service providers, despite their fundamentally different services. The white paper also contemplates lifting certain obligations from former telecom monopolies, which could undermine the competition and elevate costs for European consumers and businesses—actions potentially at odds with the Regulation’s framework that demands equal treatment and fair competition.

Daniel Friedlaender, CCIA Europe’s senior VP & head of office, pointed out that these controversial proposals were decisively rejected by a majority of stakeholders, including the body of EU telecom regulators (BEREC) and Member States, just recently. He expressed disappointment that the Commission continues to support major telecom operators at the expense of Europe’s competitive edge, with widespread agreement that such measures would damage competition, the open internet, and ultimately, European consumers.

Maria Teresa Stecher, CCIA Europe’s policy manager, emphasised that any regulatory actions in the EU telecom market must be based on solid evidence. “We don’t need recycled ideas that were rejected before,” Stecher noted. “Going forward, any new policy scenario that is tabled requires a comprehensive impact assessment and inclusive public consultation.” On a side note, this process reflects the careful consideration depicted in the EU’s Regulation on open Internet access and its enforcement by National Regulatory Authorities under the BEREC guidelines.

This integration does not just present the current concerns but also aligns them with existing regulations, providing a more comprehensive understanding of the stakes involved. It underscores the necessity for any new regulatory proposals to be critically assessed against the backdrop of established EU digital rights and market fairness regulations.

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Tags: connectivity, Networks, telecoms, uk


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