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Telecoms Package 2nd Reading

This section of iptegrity.com is devoted to analysing the Telecoms Package Second Reading in the European Parliament. In it, I have published articles, papers and analysis notes which took a critical look at the proposed texts and what they might have meant for European citizens and users, with a particular focus on the Internet and content issues.

The Telecoms Package was the review of European telecommunications framework legislation, (for full details please see the other section on iptegrity.com labelled Telecoms Package). Over 800 amendments were originally tabled to the two main directives involved - the so-called Better Regulation directive which incorporates the Framework, Access and Authoritisation directives - and the so-called Citizens Rights directive - which incorporates the Universal Services directive and the e-Privacy directive.

With so many amendments, covering such a broad scope of legislation, it is almost impossible for anyone, even specialists, to have a grasp of their meaning in real life. Let alone members of the European Parliament, for whom this is just one of many subjects, and where they are reliant on their assistants, who in turn rely on lobbyists. This is especially true since the real meaning of many amendments depends on how they are inter-linked with others. Following the chain of links, to figure out, is a complex task. However, when one does so, some serious consequences are being revealed.

The over-arching problem is that this is policy being made by changes in the law. The scope of the telecoms framework is being altered via often subtle wording changes in the amendments. The changing scope is de facto establishing policy, and by-passing the correct policy processes which have been established in the European Union.

To give an idea of the scale of the problem, one telecoms lawyer complained to me that he had 250 pages of documents to read through, in order to analyse the Package and do the job properly. What did he have? The Council compromise documents for the two main bundles in the Package - Better Regulation and Citizens rights - plus the Common position for reference. For those of us who have been with the Telecoms Package since the beginning, trawling through this amount of documentation is strangely normal. It also puts into perspective the enormity of the job for the European Parliament, and begs the question whether MEPs can really do it justice in the time allowed.

If you like the articles in this section and you are interested in Eu telecoms policy and the 2009 Telecoms Package, especially with regard to copyright enforcement policy, you may like my books A Copyright Masquerade: How Corporate Lobbying Threatens Online Freedoms and The Copyright Enforcement Enigma - Internet Politics and the 'Telecoms Package'

You may like my book The Closing of the Net which positions the story of the 2009 Telecoms Package in the wider policy context.



Users rights Amendment 138 re-written in favour of copyright, and the French and UK governments.But Telefonica's block on Skype shows how the policy-makers are mis-reading the latest developments. 

 

The European Parliament looks set to give  in to pressure from the UK and France, and  capitulate in its stand-off with the Council over  the users rights Amendment 138.   This strategic  change to the Telecoms Package, if it goes through, would seal the end to users rights of unlimited access on the Internet under EU law. The warning comes  just as  Skype is blocked for the second time in a week, this time by Spain's Telefonica.

A  revised text for Amendment 138  is understood to have been agreed by the European Parliament's Telecoms

Read more: Internet rights being written out as Spain blocks Skype

Microsoft, Google, Intel and Skype have called on the EU to halt the damaging Telecoms Package proposals which would limit Internet access and legally permit operators to block applications such as Skype. They want the EU to write in to the new law  a guarantee of open access to all content, services and applications.

 

Microsoft has joined forces with its arch rival Google, as well as the powerful component-maker Intel and Internet voice service suppliers  such as Skype, in  opposing EU plans which limit Internet  access. The plans are set out in the latest draft of the Telecoms Package, which will legally permit broadband operators to block services at their discretion. Microsoft and Google and their  partners  call on   European politicians and decision-makers to change the draft law before it is too late.  They demand that the law should instead give Internet users a guarantee of open access.

In a statement, they say: "On Tuesday, the European Parliament voted on part of the Telecoms Package, one of the cornerstones in the Regulation of the Electronic Communications  Sector. Many provisions adopted by the Committee leading on Universal service  open the door to the blocking or degrading of content, services or applications  by access operators for motives that extend beyond efficient traffic management."

They argue that the so-called transparency proposals in the Telecoms Package are insufficient safeguards for users against blocking practices by network operators.  They cite as an example, the recent decision by T-Mobile to block

Read more: IT giants oppose EU Internet-limiting law

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There was bad news for users and ISPs as the European Parliament's IMCO commitee voted today on Telecoms Package amendments which will limit what users can do on the Internet. The vote signalled that the Package is again opening the door to 3-strikes measures: proposals related to users rights were either rejected or are being amended to remove rights, and ISPs will not get reimbursed for sending warning messages.

The key text that was voted will give broadband providers the right to limit users access to services and applications (Article 20.1 (b) and Article 21.3, "compromise" amendment CA5 ot the Unversal Services directive).

An amendment to give users a guaranteed right to a connection (AM 111 tabled by Swedish MEP Eva-Britt Svensson) was rejected, and another, to safeguard users rights (Article 32a Am 72=146) will be subject to trialogue negotiations where texts already circulating will deprive users of rights. A raft of other amendments which sought to protect users rights by strengthening the regulator's powers, were rejected. These included a number of changes propsoed by the shadow rapporteurs, and several amendments from Eva-Britt Svensson

In the absence of any definition in the draft law of "services" or "applications", we must assume that the broadband provider may define it themselves. A logical assumption is that peer-to-peer applications will be targetted, as well as voice-over-IP(VoIP). Skype already says that it is being blocked by

Read more: European Parliament compromises on Internet rights

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About Iptegrity

Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I am an  independent policy advisor: online safety, technology and human rights. In April 2024, I was appointed as an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee of Experts on online safety and empowerment of content creators and users. I am a published author, and post-doctoral scholar. I hold a PhD from the University of Westminster, and a DipM from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. I cover the UK and EU. I'm a former tech journalist, and an experienced panelist and Chair. My media credits include the BBC, iNews, Times, Guardian and Politico.

Iptegrity.com is made available free of charge for non-commercial use. Please link back and attribute Dr Monica Horten.  Contact me to use any of my content for commercial purposes.