European Electronic Communications Code passed by EU Parliament

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European Parliament has voted in favour of establishing a European Electronic Communications Code (EECC) and a body of European regulators for electronic communications.

First proposed in September 2016 as part of the Digital Single Market strategy, the directive to establish the EECC is will serve to modernise the current EU telecoms rules, which were last updated in 2009, stimulate competition to drive investments, and strengthen the internal market and consumer rights. EU co-legislators reached a political agreement on these rules in June 2018 (see EU agrees European Electronic Communications Code update).

Vice-president for the digital single market, Andrus Ansip and commissioner for digital economy and society, Mariya Gabriel released a joint statement welcoming the announcement, which said: ‘Today's vote by the European Parliament is a positive and necessary step towards ensuring that the telecoms sector in the EU is fit for purpose. The new telecoms rules that will now be put in place as a result, are an essential building block for Europe's digital future and a source of new digital rights for European citizens. They are crucial for meeting Europeans' growing connectivity needs and boosting Europe's competitiveness. In addition, they allow for the groundwork to be laid for the deployment of 5G across Europe.

‘With these rules, we will be able to ensure faster access to radio spectrum waves, a key resource for mobile communications, and boost investment in high-speed and high-quality networks in every corner of the EU, including in remote areas. Consumers will be better protected and enjoy better services, irrespective of whether they use traditional calls, SMS, or web-based services such as Skype and WhatsApp. They will have access to affordable communications services, including universally available internet, and services such as eGovernment, online banking and video calls.’

The statement was also used to emphasise the work still to be done when it comes to digital confidentiality, saying: ‘The new telecoms rules are also a source of inspiration. Let us show the same level of ambition in updating the ePrivacy Directive. This is needed in order to modernise the rules of confidentially in the digital age, which urgently need to be aligned with the General Data Protection Regulation – the new world-class standard for data protection – and also to cover everyday tools such as instant messaging, voice over IP and web-based e-mail.’

Following adoption by the European Parliament, the Council of the EU will formally adopt the directive establishing the EECC and the Regulation establishing the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) on 3 December. Once it is published in the EU Official Journal, Member States will have two years to transpose the Code into national law. Following adoption of the BEREC regulation by the European Parliament and the Council's adoption on 3 December, the new rules will enter into force on the third day following its publication in the Official Journal. The provisions on the intra-EU calls will apply from 15 May 2019.

The FTTH Council Europe has responded by welcoming this vote Ronan Kelly, president of the FTTH Council Europe said: ‘While the entire ecosystem is changing, with Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality applications leading the innovation path, Europe needs to step up its efforts and give a real push to infrastructure investments in Europe. We believe the Code creates a more investment-friendly environment as well as ensures the regulatory certainty needed to foster efficient and competitive investments in future-proof digital infrastructures, not only from traditional business models but also from new innovative infrastructure models, e.g. wholesale-only.’

The council also took the opportunity to warn against fake fibre marketing. Erzsébet Fitori, director general of the FTTH Council Europe commented: ‘We believe that fibre is the only future-proof foundation enabling fixed and wireless gigabit networks as well as all new innovative digital technologies and services, however the words “fibre” and “fibre speeds” are increasingly used in advertisements while the advertised product is not genuinely a full fibre connection but still uses copper at some points of the network highlighted. This confusion is misleading for the consumers and prevents them from making an informed choice about the products available to them, and also risks hindering fibre take-up, which could in turn affect innovation and weaken the business case for investments.’

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