The EU Universal Service Directive (2002/22) establishes that connection to public fixed-telephony networks must ensure data communications at rates that are sufficient to permit functional internet access. The directive must be implemented by member states by July 24 2003.

The Spanish administration is willing to speed up the implementation of this directive and with this aim has prepared an amendment to Law 11/1998, the General Telecommunications Law, by means of a disposition in the Law of Information Society Services, published on July 12 2002.

The law foresees a modification to the General Telecommunications Law, which states that universal service should allow the user to make and receive national and international telephone calls, and transmit data at a speed that allows functional access to the Internet.

Currently 225,000 subscribers in Spain receive fixed-telephony services through cellular technology, which allows them to make and receive national and international telephone calls, and Group 3 fax and data communications, at rates of up to 2,400 bytes per second. However, these rates are insufficient to provide functional access to the Internet and are significantly lower than those available to the majority of subscribers to publicly available telephony services.

The Spanish administration also plans to replace the old technology in order to fulfill the new conditions of universal service. During the next two years cellular access to fixed networks in rural areas will be replaced by other technologies, ensuring appropriate rates of data communications.

For further information on this topic please contact Almudena Arpón de Mendívil, Eduardo Gómez de la Cruz or Alejandro Plaza at Gómez-Acebo & Pombo by telephone (+34 91 582 9100) or by fax (+34 91.582. 9186) or by email ([email protected] or [email protected] or [email protected] ).