Europe Goes for Telecom Reform - Dynamic Overhaul or Business As Usual?
The European Commission has finally published part of its plans to assess and reform Europe’s telecoms rules. Its roadmap is one of the new Commission’s most anticipated reforms, contributing to Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s €350 billion growth and investment package.
The need to revive Europe’s once thriving telecommunications industry is clearly understood and reform has broad political and commercial consensus. Publication of the Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy on 6th May and the provisional agreement on net neutrality and roaming at the end of June provides a strong platform to take a constructive agenda forward. The Commission has also repeatedly stated that it has learnt from the bruising process associated with its Telecoms Single Market (TSM) proposals.
Deja-vu or an opportunity to engage in a process that could create real change? Either way real differences exist in what is needed, what should be prioritized and how it should be implemented. What is clear is that any future proposals could have far-reaching consequences for industry, consumers and internet companies operating in the internal market; it could also affect foreign operators and would-be investors who have so far been reluctant to enter or increase their EU presence due to regulatory fragmentation inconsistency.
An assortment of old and new
The roadmap points towards ambitious reform, responding to persistent calls for change. Traditional telecoms operators have repeatedly voiced the need for new measures in favour of market consolidation, to create a level regulatory playing field, and provide incentives for high-speed broadband investment.
But the roadmap also reflects the Commission’s own agenda by re-launching reforms included in the initial TSM proposal, which previously failed to gain approval by EU member states. These proposals include a review of rules for consumer protection in electronic communications, potential changes in the operation of EU regulatory groups such as the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) and the Radio Spectrum Policy Group (RSPG), as well as the controversial reform of spectrum allocation and assignment.