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Telecoms package

The Telecoms Package (Paquet Telecom) was a review of European telecoms law. Ordinarily, it would have dealt with network infrastructure and universal service and other purely telecoms matters. However, buried within it, deep in the detail, were important legal changes that related to enforcement of copyright. These changes represented a threat to civil liberties and risk undermining the entire structure of Internet, jeopardising businesses and cultural diversity.

The bottom line is that changes to telecoms regulations are needed before EU member states can bring in the so-called "3 strikes" measures - also known as "graduated response" - of which France led the way, but other governments, notably the UK, followed. A swathe of amendments were tabled at the instigation of entertainment industry lobbying. These amendments were aimed at bringing an end to free downloading. They also brought with them the risk of an unchecked corporate censorship of the Internet, with a host of unanswered questions relating to the legal oversight and administration.

The Telecoms Package was voted in the plenary session of the European Parliament on 24th September. It followed a brief debate on 2nd September, and a committee vote in July. In November last year it was put to vote in the European Council. Now - winter 2009 - it is headed for a second reading in the European Parliament. The official start will be 18th February, but negotiations are underway now. The plenary vote was planned for 21 April. It has been re-scheduled to 6 May. This timetable has not left much time for public debate, and it reminds me of the rushed passage of the data retention directive (see Data Retention on this site). It is, if you like, regulation by stealth.

I had originally planned that this site would just highlight reports from elsewhere, related to my research topic. But at the time, it felt wrong to me that such critical changes - which will infringe on people's freedoms and fundamentally alter the social and legal character of the Internet - should happen without at least the opportunity for a full and frank public debate. So I set out the issues as I see them, and reported on relevant public events.

If you like the articles in this section and you are interested in EU telecoms law and the 2009 Telecoms Package, 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'

I have written a series of briefing papers. You are free to download them. They are released under a Creative Commons licence. You are free to use them, but you should attribute it to me as the author, and reference their publication on iptegrity.com.

The first paper discusses why we should protect the 'mere conduit' principle: 'The 'Telecoms Package' and the copyright amendments - a European legal framework to stop downloading, and monitor the Internet

The second paper discusses network filtering: Deep packet inspection, copyright and the Telecoms Package

The third paper discusses copyright enforcement policy: Packaging up copyright enforcement - how the Telecoms Package slots in the framework for a European policy to restrict Internet content

Finally, you may like my book The Closing of the Net which contains a breif summary of the Telecoms Package story with regard to copyright, and moves the policy agenda on to consider other issues of secondary liability including, the Megaupload case.

AT&T's hidden agenda...AT&T doesn't like a decision by the FCC in America, so it is trying to sneak in changes to European law that will compromise net neutrality. It wants  to prevent European regulators from regulating fairly on peer-to-peer filesharing traffic. It is also trying to sell its global Internet services to the content industries.

The AT&T amendments being promoted around the European Parliament have a hidden American agenda. It concerns a ruling made by the American regulator, the Federal Communications  Commission (FCC) against the network operator Comcast, in August last year. The effect of the  ruling is that ISPs cannot filter peer-to-peer traffic, or indeed, they can't pick on any specific type of traffic and filter or slow it down or ‘restrict' it.

AT&T, and its partner Verizon, wants to prevent a similar regulatory decision happening in Europe. So it is trying to get the law changed.  And it has targeted the Telecoms Package, currently about to enter the Second Reading in the European Parliament.  It wants  changes to Article 22(3) of the Universal Services directive, and associated Recitals, as I have previously reported. The impact of these changes would not only be negative for net neutrality. They would mean that European national  regulators would not have the power to intervene in cases where peer-to-peer traffic is being throttled or restricted, or where any type of content or service was blocked. Nor would the pan-European regulatory body or the Commission have any power.

The FCC ruling was made

Read more: Will AT&T pull the wool over Europe's eyes?

An event on 26th February positions AT&T and Google lobbyists taking the lead in a Brussels seminar on net neutrality.

The event is timed to coincide with the Second Reading of the Telecoms Package, where amendments promoted by AT&T, opposed to net neutrality, are under consideration in the Universal Services directive (Harbour report). Google is also reported to be touting amendments around the European Parliament. The Google amendments are understood to be purveyed under the title of 'net neutrality' but they may or may not be good for citizens' interests.

The event is organised by the European Newspaper Publishers Association (ENPA) and the European Federation of Magazine Publishers (FAEP), two voices so far unheard in the whole Telecoms Package debate . The two groups represent national, regional and local newspaper and magazine publishers around Europe. It is curious why they want to get involved now.

ENPA opposed the copyright amendments in the Telecoms Package. On its website, it says: "we would resist

Read more: AT&T and Google step up net neutrality lobbying

Net neutrality has to be guaranteed, says EU Commissioner Viviane Reding. It's a 180 degree turn from her graduated-response-supporting position a year ago. And it gives her a new challenge to deal with the AT&T  amendments to the Telecoms Package  which attack net neutrality.


"I believe that we are at the start of a new phase of internet driven innovation and growth...We will only reap the full  benefits if we  safeguard the openness of the Intenet...take advantage of the  win-win of open interfaces...net neutrality has to be guaranteed ..." 


Not the words of a technology entrepreneur, as you might expect,  but Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding, speaking last week at a conference on the future of the Internet . She called for investment in the Internet infrastructure and commitment to openness, in order  to

Read more: Reding champions net neutrality


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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.