Telecoms Package: Wikis

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The "Telecoms Reform Package", COM (2007) 697, COD/2007/0247, was presented by Commissioner Viviane Reding to the European Parliament in Strasbourg 13 November 2007.[1] Its aim is to change the EU Telecoms Rules of 2002.[2] In essence its goal is to unify Europe's tele-communications market for all 27 EU member states. It is expected to become law by the end of 2009 or in 2010 with the aim to complete the internal market in the EU telecommunications industry.

In the European Parliaments first reading on 24 September 2008 a number of amendments were carried to uphold user's rights and judicial authority as the highest instance deciding on sanctions against users.[3] In the second reading, on May 5 2009, a majority of the European Parliament voted to amend the package once again, making it illegal for governments to disconnect internet users based on suspected copyright violations until they are proven guilty in court. As of May 2009, this vote may delay the adoption of the package if an agreement cannot be reached before the end of May.[4]

On September 28 2009, the conciliation committee have their first meeting in a third reading. In an Open Letter to the European Parliament 26 leading Internet civil society organizations called on the Members of the Parliament to take decisive action during the ongoing negotiation of the Telecoms Package in order to guarantee a free, open and innovative Internet, and to safeguard the fundamental freedoms of European citizens[5] and a Petition was set up in reaction to the statement of Network neutrality in the United States made on 21 September by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.[6]

Contents

Amendment 46 (previously 138)

In April 2009, civil organisations drew attention to the potential dropping of Amendment 46 to the EU Telecoms Package, which was first approved as Amendment 138 by the European Parliament in the first reading on 24 September 2008.[7]

After the French representatives had been demanding the withdrawal of Amendment 138, the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) took a vote on the by then renumbered Amendment 46 on 21 April 2009,[8] on the basis of an offered compromise by the committee's chairwoman Catherine Trautmann which would soften the intended ban to a mere Recital which only constitutes a recommendation for the implementation into national law.[9]

However, the ITRE voted in favour of Amendment 46 by a majority of 40 against 4 (2 abstentions),[10][11] accepting the text of the Draft Recommendation for Second Reading:

(fb) in paragraph 4, point (fb) shall be added:

“(fb) applying the principle that no restriction may be imposed on the fundamental rights and freedoms of end-users, without a prior ruling by the judicial authorities, notably in accordance with Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union on freedom of expression and information, save when public security is threatened in which case the ruling may be subsequent.”[12]

During the second reading on May 5, by a majority of 404 to 56,[13] the European Parliament voted in favor of this amendment. Because the Council of Telecoms Ministers, which is known to oppose the amendment, has to approve the package, the Parliament expects the entire package to be delayed. If an agreement cannot be reached before the end of May, negotiations will likely start after the election of a new Parliament, when a new Council Presidency is in place. In that case, the implementation of the package will likely be delayed to 2010.[14]

Internet screening

The proposition also makes it possible for Internet service providers (ISP) to decide which web pages users are allowed to visit, potentially limiting access to websites critical of the ISP or the government. ISPs would then sell internet packages, similar to TV packages, allowing access to a limited number of websites. Critics claim this will limit freedom of speech on the Internet.[15]

In April 2008, these criticisms appeared to be borne out by the actions of Virgin Media, when their CEO, Neil Berkett, said that "This net neutrality thing is a load of bollocks,"[16] and that Virgin was in talks with certain content providers about paying to have their content delivered faster than others. Less than a week later, Virgin Media acted to limit any potential damage made by their CEO's disclosure[17].

Lobbyists

The Telecoms Package received great attention from many US companies,[18][19] notably AT&T and Verizon, but also from different advocacy groups.[20] Filip Svab, chairman of the "Telecom Working Group" of the Council of the European Union, which was responsible for drafting the Council's changes to the Telecoms Package on the second reading, left Brussels for a new job with AT&T (External Affairs Director).[21]

References

  1. ^ Commission proposes a single European Telecoms Market for 500 million consumers, Commission press release, IP/07/1677
  2. ^ Directive 2002/19/EC (Access Directive) Directive 2002/20/EC (Authorisation Directive) Directive 2002/21/EC (Framework Directive) Directive 2002/22/EC (Universal Service Directive) Directive 2002/58/EC (Directive on privacy and electronic communications)
  3. ^ Electronic communications networks and services, protection of privacy and consumer protection, P6_TA-PROV(2008)0452 P6_TA-PROV(2008)0449 Electronic communications networks and services, P6_TA-PROV(2008)0449
  4. ^ New York Times: French Anti-Piracy Proposal Undermines E.U. Telecommunications Overhaul
  5. ^ Operation revelation, Werebuild, retrieved 20090924
  6. ^ http://www.euopeninternet.eu/
  7. ^ Report: on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2002/21/EC on a common regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services, Directive 2002/19/EC on access to, and interconnection of, electronic communications networks and associated facilities, and Directive 2002/20/EC on the authorisation of electronic communications networks and services [COM(2007)0697 - C6-0427/2007 - 2007/0247(COD) - Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. Rapporteur: Catherine Trautmann (A6-0321/2008)]
  8. ^ [1], Draft Agenda of Committee on Industry, Research and Energy for Tuesday 21 April 2009, 20.00 – 21.00
  9. ^ Plan to Fight Illegal Downloads Faces Opposition, The New York Times, retrieved 20090421
  10. ^ Telecom markets: still no overall agreement with Council presidency Press service page of the European Parliament, retrieved 20090423
  11. ^ Victory for internet freedom in EU Scottish National Party Homepage, News Section, retrieved 20090422
  12. ^ ***II DRAFT RECOMMENDATION FOR SECOND READING on the Council common position for adopting a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directives 2002/21/EC on a common regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services, 2002/19/EC on access to, and interconnection of, electronic communications networks and associated facilities, and 2002/20/EC on the authorisation of electronic communications networks and services (16496/1/2008– C6-0066/2009–2007/0247(COD)), Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, Rapporteur:Catherine Trautmann, retrieved 20090424
  13. ^ French Anti-Piracy Proposal Undermines E.U. Telecommunications Overhaul, The New York Times, retrieved 20090511
  14. ^ ZDNet.co.uk: Net-neutrality clause likely to delay telecoms reform
  15. ^ Blackout Europe - Defending the Open Internet
  16. ^ Virgin Media CEO attacks net neutrality
  17. ^ Virgin Media mops up CEO's 'boll*cks' outburst
  18. ^ U.S. lobbyists angle for influence in Europe's Net neutrality debate, The New York Times, retrieved 20090406
  19. ^ VON Coalition Europe, The Voice on the Net (VON) Coalition Europe was launched in December 2007, press release retrieved 20090406 from external website
  20. ^ Group Prods FCC to Defend Skype on iPhone, The Wall Street Journal, retrieved 20090406
  21. ^ EU negotiator lands top job in AT&T, Iptegrity.com, retrieved 20090924

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