EU lawmaker committees call for single EU telco regulator

And we need a 'harmonised framework' for spectrum allocation as well

The EU's telecoms market should be regulated by a single authority, two committees at the European Parliament have said.

The Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, and Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, made the recommendation in a motion tabled for a new European Parliament resolution on the subject of the EU's work towards a digital single market.

Resolutions that are voted through by the European Parliament are not binding, but they often express the law-making body's support for policies and willingness to adopt new legislation that the European Commission could put forward.

In their 'Towards a Digital Market Act' report the two committees said the Commission should put forward plans for a "single telecom regulator" in an effort to ensure telecoms regulations are applied uniformly across the EU, and also rejected the idea that competition rules need to be watered down to encourage investment in new telecoms infrastructure.

The Commission is currently reviewing EU telecoms rules. It held a consultation exercise in the autumn last year and has said it intends to use the views it gathers to inform new "regulatory proposals" that it expects to publish this year.

The report said: "The European Commission should ensure that the regulatory framework drives competition and thereby private investments in networks. It does not require the weakening of competition rules as there is little evidence of a link between consolidation of companies and an increase in investments."

"The revision of the telecoms framework should aim at ensuring the rules are fit for the digital age and drive competition and innovation for over-the-top services and telecom operators, to the benefit of consumers," it added.

"Incentivising private investments in networks also requires for the European Union to have a harmonised framework for spectrum allocation, to give legal certainty to investors. The European Commission should urgently build momentum with member states to move forward with such proposal. Last but not least, the European Commission should propose a single telecom regulator to ensure a uniform application of rules," it said.

The committees said the "role, capacity and decisions" of the existing Body of European Regulators of Electronic Communications (BEREC) should be strengthened "to achieve consistent application of the regulatory framework, ensure oversight in the development of the single market, and resolve cross-border disputes" in the area of telecoms.

In a speech in October 2015, EU commissioner for the digital single market Andrus Ansip said that telecoms networks that can deliver "top-class connections" across the whole of the EU "needs to be built, quickly, and with the appropriate infrastructure".

He said the telecoms regulations review would look to support the funding of those projects by companies. "Tackling the huge investment gap to fund the next-generation networks that Europe needs is a major long-term challenge," Ansip said. "The public purse can't be expected to meet this shortfall. This is why the ongoing review of EU telecoms legislation will look closely at how to incentivise and leverage more private investment."

The idea of a single regulator for the EU's telecoms market has been mooted before. In 2013, the European Commission published plans to reform a raft of telecoms rules which were aimed at establishing a single EU telecoms market. Those plans were eventually watered down with the eventual reforms being focused on curbing roaming charges and setting new net neutrality laws.

Prior to the Commission's 2013 proposals being published the Commission's Directorate General for Competition (DG Comp) had expressed support for a "true pan-EU regulator" of telecoms. That suggestion did not, however, make it into the Commission's official proposals at the time.

DG Comp had said that establishing such a regulator "would be the most effective solution to remove national divergences" in the way telecoms rules are applied. ®

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