Opportunities Abroad - EU Considers Single Market Telecom Package

Regulation Watch

Opportunities Abroad - EU Considers Single Market Telecom Package

On Sept. 11, 2013, the European Commission released a proposed telecommunications framework aimed at further harmonizing the broadband market across the EU. If adopted, it would implement network neutrality rules and eliminate EU roaming costs. It must be approved by the European Parliament and by the EU Council before it becomes law. 

There are several primary issues undertaken in the draft framework. First, it would create a single EU authorization system whereby operators would be able to provide services (including VoIP) in all EU member states after registering with one national regulator. It would also establish network neutrality principles that would require non-discrimination between certain communications, absent certain conditions. It would also eliminate EU roaming charges, establish certain end user rights (such as the right to terminate service within six months, increased transparency with respect to invoicing, facilitation of carrier changes, etc.), and harmonize spectrum allocation for EU broadband. 

For VoIP providers, the most important elements in the proposed framework are the facilitation of a single regulatory entry requirement, and the establishment of network neutrality requirements. These changes could open doors to VoIP market entry by reducing regulatory authorization barriers, and limiting the ability of EU operators to block or degrade the services of competitors. 

The framework is controversial and may not be adopted before the EU elections in May since it would reduce EU operators’ roaming charges and implement network neutrality.  Some national regulators and the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications, advising the European Commission, have spoken out against it because they were not consulted during the drafting process, and the loss of jurisdiction and the legal uncertainty it may cause.

William B. Wilhelm (News - Alert) is a partner and Jeffrey R. Strenkowski is of counsel at the global law firm of Bingham McCutchen LLP (www.bingham.com).

Edited by Ryan Sartor