On September, 11th 2015, the European Commission launched a new public consultation on the evaluation of the legal and regulatory framework for the electronic communications sector.
This consultation follows the Commission’s communication on the “Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe” dated May, 6th 2015, according to which the Commission’s target is to establish “a single market in order to adapt electronic communications to the digital revolution”. Indeed, the field of electronic communications has been subject to significant evolutions over the last decades characterized especially by the development of fiber to the detriment of copper, by the convergence of fixed and mobile networks, by the apparition of new technologies such as cloud services or big data and finally by a consistent reduction of revenues for telecommunication groups.
In order to foster the development of this “Digital Single Market”, three main targets, encompassing 16 actions to be achieved by European institutions by the end of 2016, have been identified by the Commission:
- Ensuring a better access for consumers and businesses to online goods and services across Europe;
- Creating the right conditions and a level playing field for digital networks and services to flourish; and
- Maximizing the growth potential of the European digital economy.
To implement the second target, the Commission has notably planned a review of the current legal framework for the sector. For that purpose, a “Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme” (REFIT), designed to assess the efficiency of the current European legal framework for the telecom sector, will be undertaken to determine whether or not the current framework sets the conditions for digital networks and services to flourish.
The scope of the consultation will therefore concern most of the European legislation in force in the field of electronic communications, usually referred to as the “Telecom Package”, and including mainly:
- Directive No. 2002/21/EC dated March 7th, 2002 on a common regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services, as amended by Directive No.2009/140 and Regulation No. 544/2009;
- Directive No. 2002/20/EC dated March 7th, 2002 on the authorization of electronic communications networks and services, as amended by No. Directive 2009/140;
- Directive No. 2002/19/EC dated March 7th, 2002 on access to, and interconnection of, electronic communications networks and associated facilities, as amended by Directive No. 2009/140;
- Directive No. 2002/22/EC dated March 7th, 2002 on universal service and users’ rights relating to electronic communication networks and services; and
- Regulation No. 1211/2009 dated November 25th, 2009 establishing the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) and the Office.
The aim of the consultation is first to assess the current European legal framework in light of the Commission’s “Better Regulation Guidelines” designed to ensure the quality of regulations. The consultation will also allow to gather opinions and possibly recommendations on current issues affecting the telecom sector, to give the Commission insights on new market and technological evolutions and on the stakeholders’ current concerns for the development of their operations.
The European Commission has published an online survey to enable any stakeholders, such as e.g., electronic communications operators or consumers associations, to participate. The survey will remain open until December 7th, 2015. According to the Commission website, a public summary report of the consultation should be made available one month after closing of the survey.