Scandanavian telecoms operators criticise the Connected Continent proposal

By Carl Johan Af Petersens

20 November 2013 at 17:37 BST

The companies believe that objectives can be realised through current legislation and there is no need for the new proposal.

Scandanavian operators are against the Connected Continent proposal Sansila

At the beginning of October this year, the leading telecom operators in Scandinavia - TeliaSonera, Tele2, 3 and Telenor -  jointly provided a position in which they criticise the Connected Continent Proposal. The Commission’s aim is to boost competition in the ICT sector was welcomed. However, the operators believe that there are “simpler and more effective steps” which could be undertaken to achieve the objectives of world-leading digital infrastructure and completing a single market. Examples of such steps would be to update the regulatory framework in place by regulating all parts of the value chain in a consistent way, to support the next generation of digital technologies and to facilitate the operators’ development of user-friendly roaming alternatives by supporting an approach of regulatory consistency.

With reference to the Proposal, the operators present their concerns about detailed measures that would “increase costs for telecoms operators and create uncertainty”.

  •  As regards the harmonisation for accessing spectrum of wireless broadband, the Proposal suggests that co-ordinated timeframes are introduced. The operators fear that a common timetable could hold more progressive countries back and thus prefer a common deadline.
  • The operators strongly criticise the “direct regulation of retail prices” of intra-EU (international) calls. They find the “interventionist approach” to be disproportionate and unnecessary since a market analysis would show that Skype and other internet-based applications already challenge competition on this market by offering international call traffic at low or at no cost for the consumer.
  • According to the operators, the proposed restriction of use of traffic management, with reference to the so-called Net Neutrality, is likely to lead to a poorer Internet experience for a vast majority of the consumers. The inability of operators to negotiate different agreements pertaining to Quality of Service risks denying consumers the benefits of new services and freezing the Internet at its current stage of development.
  • As regards the end-user obligations, the operators acknowledge that obligations could be perceived as benefits for consumers but such obligations do not consist of real value in some cases. For instance, the provider is obliged to inform and update information on speed averages at the main location of the end-user. That obligation is not possible to fulfil, since no reliable figures could be determined for mobile users, with no main location. The measuring of speed is also hampered by location factors such as whether the user is outdoors, inside or in a basement as well as what type of devise is being used. The operators suggest that an “overall expected speed” should be a requirement in order to provide consumers with information of what constitutes a reasonable service.
  •  Finally, the operators consider the risks of “Collective Roaming”. According to the operators, Collective Roaming “carries risks for smaller operators and smaller countries, since they will not need to be included in the roaming agreements to meet the thresholds for exemption”.  In addition, the provisions governing roaming are considered to undermine the investments made under the current Roaming III Regulation, thereby creating regulatory uncertainty.

During October, the Swedish Government and a Parliament Committee have  raised their concerns on the Proposal. As regards the principle of proportionality, the Government strongly questioned whether new regulation was the answer or if the objectives could be equally well achieved through amendments to existing directives, possibly in combination with more effective supervision and application of national law. The Parliament Committee on Transport and Communication published a statement which contains a motion for the Parliament to adopt a reasoned opinion to the EU. In the proposed reasoned opinion, the Proposal, in its current wording, does not seem to be compatible with the proportionality test within a review of the principle of subsidiarity. In the Committee’s opinion, it is fully possible for the Commission to realise the objectives through amendments to existing provisions and thus disregard the current proposal.



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