New EU laws aim to cut prices, guarantee net freedom

Natalie Apostolou
27 Nov 2009
00:00

The European Parliament has approved a raft of new telecom laws designed to give European consumers cheaper telecom services, more privacy and faster internet access.

The laws broadly attempt to equalize telecom services across Europe, with dominant operators forced to compete fairly with smaller rivals or face having their networks separated from their service divisions.

“The EU telecoms reform will bring more competition on Europe's telecoms markets and put citizens in the center stage in telecoms regulation," said telecoms commissioner Viviane Reding.

EU regulators are now empowered to intervene in telecom markets at a country level if they are dissatisfied with how national regulators police their markets.

In other reforms EU member country operators will be obliged to allow consumers to switch to rival networks without delays, while consumers will be granted the right to be informed about data breaches involving their data.

The telecoms directive also includes rules to harmonize radio spectrum management across the EU, especially in regard to the switchover from analog to digital TV by 2012.

The package includes a provision for “internet freedom,” representing the first time it has been referred to in law as a fundamental right.

The controversial issue of file sharing has been handled with a strong skew in favor of the consumer, not the ISP, running counter to laws recently passed in France.

Consumers suspected of illegally sharing copyright-protected content over the internet will be assured the right of defense and the presumption of innocence, rather than being cut off from internet access.

The package also seeks to harmonize the way mobile broadband is rolled out across the EU, aiming to assist in the goal for 100% broadband coverage in Europe by 2013.

Member states have until May 24, 2011 to include the legislation in their own rules.

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