1st December 2014

Council discusses Telecoms Single Market

At a meeting of the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council on 27 November, the ministers held a discussion on the Telecoms Single Market. The package, in the form of a wide-ranging regulation, was proposed by the Commission in 2013 and included many separate points, which together should form a true single market of telecoms in the EU once adopted. These include aspects such as end of roaming for intra-EU calls, ban of surcharges of intra-EU international calls, single telecoms authorization, net neutrality, spectrum allocation coordination, end-users rights and others, together some 12 chapters. The European Parliament adopted its position on the proposed regulation in April 2014, simplifying it somewhat. The MEPs dropped some of the proposed chapters, such as ban of international calls surcharges, while developing others – mainly roaming and net neutrality.

Since the adoption by the EP, the proposal has been tabled in the Council, where it saw several rounds of debate. The Italian Presidency of the Council stated that it would like to see a deal among Member States by the end of 2014, so that negotiations with MEPs may start on the final text. Last week, the Presidency tried to fast-forward the negotiations by presenting a compromise proposal for a so-called general approach - a document laying out basic points on which further negotiations with the MEPs would be based. This proposal dropped all aspects of the proposed regulation but three – end of roaming, net neutrality and spectrum coordination. However, despite having gotten the informal backing of large Member States and of the Commission, Italy failed to push it through. Some Member States required the debate in the Council to be organized only around a so-called state-of-play document, a document summarizing principal points of accord and discord among countries. Moreover, spectrum allocation was dropped from this document, too. At last, this state-of-play document was discussed by the ministers. They agreed that the Single Telecoms Market is an important agenda, and that both roaming and net neutrality clauses have their place in the regulation. However, mainly in the case of roaming, more analyses need to be conducted. Some fear that dropping roaming inside the EU would lead to a so-called water bed effect, that is increase of the overall consumer prices in telecoms as a result of dropping roaming surcharges.

The European Parliament has already called on the Council to adopt its position as soon as possible. Also the Commission Vice-President Ansip, responsible for the Digital Single Market, expressed some concerns about the delays. For now, however, the proposal stays in the Council and it seems that should a deal among the Member States be found, it would be much more modest than the wide-ranging Commission proposal, and less radical than the quick-abolishing-the-roaming proposal adopted by the MEPs.

For more, click here, here, here and here.

Members of the American Chamber of Commerce in the Czech Republic