The EU's Committee of the Regions warned today the European Commission that the proposal for a single market for electronic communications must be significantly reviewed. The choice of the legal instrument (regulation) and the lack of consultation are the key points of contention for the CoR.
The opinion, presented by Frank Zimmermann (PES/Germany), Member of the Berlin House of Representatives, warns that the new single EU authorisation for telecoms operators may lead to legal uncertainty and to a “race to the bottom”. The rapporteur also expresses concerns over the significant transfer of competencies over frequency management from national regulatory authorities to the EU.
While the Committee agrees with the choice of a regulation when it comes to eliminating roaming charges, it questions the pertinence of this legal instrument for issues related to frequency management and net neutrality.
Introducing his opinion to the plenary session, Frank Zimmermann pointed out that "the strategic cooperation of frequency management can deliver efficiency gains but at the same time it is a public good that performs very important cultural, social and economic functions, be they in broadcasting, the cultural sphere or the creative economy". He therefore proposed to strengthen European cooperation only on the mobile spectrum - involving WLAN and fast mobile LTE internet connections - but otherwise to "leave spectrum policy in the hands of national and regional regulators, on the understanding that these can best take into account the regional aspects of services of general interest".
The rapporteur warns that net neutrality may be at risk from the agreements on the provision of specialised services. Within this context, he challenges the definition of "reasonable traffic management" and calls for minimum harmonisation with regard to end-users' rights in order to avoid reduction of the level of protection currently provided in the Member States.
The Committee deplores the lack of public consultation allowing all interested parties - including local and regional authorities - to express their views on the specific legislative proposal, which will entail significant changes in the de facto and de jure situation with regard to electronic communications in the Member States and regions .
The CoR points to the overall limited funding for broadband expansion under the Connecting Europe Facility for 2014-2020 and urges for the financing of digital infrastructure in all EU regions through the structural funds while underlining the key role of local and regional authorities in ensuring equal and affordable broadband access in areas that are not commercially attractive .
The EC proposal is part of the EU telecom market reform to create a single market and deliver a connected continent. This will facilitate the access to services such as internet or telephone for citizens and businesses by lifting cross-border restrictions or unjustified additional costs. Key elements of the proposal are a simplification of EU rules for companies, the abolition of roaming charges on incoming calls and international call premiums within the EU, a protection of net neutrality and new harmonised consumer rights and coordinated spectrum assignment.