MEPs, Council still deadlocked over EU telco laws

Roaming, net neutrality plans on hold

After three years of negotiations, the proposals to overhaul Europe’s critical telecoms rules could come to nothing, with political power blocks seemingly deadlocked.

The so-called Telco Package has been shorn of many of its original proposals and has now been whittled down to just two major issues: net neutrality and roaming charges.

On Tuesday night, representatives of member states sat down with the European Parliament and the European Commission and assumed battle positions agreed to disagree.

Last year, the parliament approved its version of the draft law, including abolishing costly roaming charges for consumers and encouraging strong net neutrality rules.

However, national negotiators in the Council of the European Union have ripped the soul out of both plans with their latest available version of the text and managed to alienate almost everyone with a stake.

Members of the European Parliament want roaming abolished by the end of this year, but Council members will agree to mid-2018 at the earliest. Some MEPs are reportedly insulted with the desultory “compromise” offered by the Council.

European Commission digi-veep Andrus Ansip said on Monday: “Despite EU heads of state themselves agreeing – a long time ago – on the significance, ambition and urgency of creating a single European telecoms market, it still has not happened."

"What is needed now is an end-date for roaming, and a convincing roadmap to get us there. Customers must have tangible benefits that they can feel as of now, not X years from now," he added.

On the net neutrality issue, he said: “We need clear open internet rules that allow for innovation but guarantee equal treatment.” However, he will have been left disappointed by the stalemate on Tuesday night, with no side prepared to budge.

Digital right groups EDRi and Access urged MEPs to stay strong: “You made the promise to deliver net neutrality. Do not succumb to pressure. History is on your side. Citizens are on your side.”

“For the past few months, the Council has proposed a string of virtually identical compromise texts in an effort to reach an agreement with the European Parliament and the Commission," continued the joint statement from the two groups.

"In this process, the European Commission made it clear that it was ready to accept any deal, for the sake of closing negotiations. The Parliament has so far resisted the ever-increasing pressure from the Council to approve proposals that not only make little sense, but which would also deliver the complete opposite of what the Parliament adopted by large majority in April 2014,” added the statement.

Consumer groups have, unsurprisingly, weighed in on the roaming charges issue and even set up a petition.

MEP and former EU Commissioner Viviane Reding said: “It is high time for the general interest of the people to prevail over the private interests of telecom companies. National leaders mistakenly believe roaming fees are a 'win-win' situation. Their small ambitions yield even smaller results.”

Some Brussels insiders believe that the Council representing the member states was hoping to use leverage in one area to get what it wants in another: a view borne out by the nearly identical “revised” versions of the text that it has released as a “compromise”.

However, Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake said that although negotiations were tough, it should not be an 'either/or' scenario between net neutrality and an end to roaming charges, arguing both were important.

Non-profit organisation the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) pointed out some of the flaws in the net neutrality proposals: “While there may be particular circumstances in which a network operator needs to depart from that principle – such as during periods of congestion – that departure should be the exception, not the norm."

"The Parliament text limited differentiated treatment of 'specific categories or entire classes of traffic' to specific legal compliance or network management purposes. The Council text, however, makes type-based discrimination a broadly acceptable practice even in the absence of congestion or certain limitations of specific technologies," it added.

However, we may be passed the point of negotiating specific parts of the text as the whole law may be torn up and started again.

Austrian MEP Jörg Leichtfried said this would be a mistake and that his parliamentary group wanted to quickly get rid of roaming, suggesting that “I think there is a possibility if we can talk to the [national] ministers involved rather than the bureaucrats”.

He added that having the whole package stymied by unaccountable bureaucrats was “not acceptable”.

His words may be a way for national negotiators to save face in the event of a u-turn by the council, but those bureaucrats have been at the table for many years now and they are all representing interests back home, primarily those of big telcos.

Sources told El Reg that failure to pass this law would be a blow to the newly announced Digital Single Market strategy and is part of a larger power struggle between the Council and the European Parliament. ®

Other stories you might like

  • Experts: AI should be recognized as inventors in patent law
    Plus: Police release deepfake of murdered teen in cold case, and more

    In-brief Governments around the world should pass intellectual property laws that grant rights to AI systems, two academics at the University of New South Wales in Australia argued.

    Alexandra George, and Toby Walsh, professors of law and AI, respectively, believe failing to recognize machines as inventors could have long-lasting impacts on economies and societies. 

    "If courts and governments decide that AI-made inventions cannot be patented, the implications could be huge," they wrote in a comment article published in Nature. "Funders and businesses would be less incentivized to pursue useful research using AI inventors when a return on their investment could be limited. Society could miss out on the development of worthwhile and life-saving inventions."

    Continue reading
  • Declassified and released: More secret files on US govt's emergency doomsday powers
    Nuke incoming? Quick break out the plans for rationing, censorship, property seizures, and more

    More papers describing the orders and messages the US President can issue in the event of apocalyptic crises, such as a devastating nuclear attack, have been declassified and released for all to see.

    These government files are part of a larger collection of records that discuss the nature, reach, and use of secret Presidential Emergency Action Documents: these are executive orders, announcements, and statements to Congress that are all ready to sign and send out as soon as a doomsday scenario occurs. PEADs are supposed to give America's commander-in-chief immediate extraordinary powers to overcome extraordinary events.

    PEADs have never been declassified or revealed before. They remain hush-hush, and their exact details are not publicly known.

    Continue reading
  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022