In association with heise online

18 October 2006, 20:02

Criticism of EU proposals for regulating electronic communication

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EU commission proposals for making network security measures the responsibility of the network operator and for bringing this under the jurisdiction of the regulatory authorities encountered massive criticism from telecommunications companies at a hearing today in Brussels. Representatives of the European Telecommunications Network Operators' Association (ETNO), the European Internet Service Provider Association (EuroISPA) and the EU committee of the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM EU), all complained that the commission has made a complete about turn on this issue.

Representatives of Euroispa and ETNO unanimously criticised the committee's recommendations on rewriting the regulatory framework for electronic communications (PDF file) as making security "solely the responsibility of the operator". Back in May, the commission was still preferring collaboration between all those involved (businesses, regulatory authorities and users). "This will lead to less, not more, security," claimed a EuroISPA representative.

The commission proposes that national regulatory authorities should specify and monitor the setting up of certain security measures. Network operators and ISPs would in addition be obliged to inform the regulator of attacks on their systems. The regulator would then decide whether to alert the public. "National regulatory authorities do not have the expertise for this," warned ETNO director Michael Bartholomew. A representative of the Finnish regulatory authority Ficora disagreed, operators already have to meet such security obligations in Finland and providers cope without difficulty.

It was not just with regard to security that the commission's course was criticised for being too interventionist. Various company representatives criticised the commission's deliberations to make the separation of networks and services within a company obligatory. The commission has distanced itself from this in its recommendations, but an ETNO spokesperson told heise online that the idea is now once again on the table as a possibility. "We are rather more of the opinion, that what is needed is to create stimuli to investment in access networks."

A representative of the German Ministry of Economics made a sharp counterplea to Fabio Colasanti, the EU Director-General for information society and media, as she pleaded for an exception to be made for "new markets". Colasanti described "national unilateralism" as "unlawful". The debate must be viewed against the backdrop of the disagreement about the "regulatory holiday" for the planned Deutsche Telekom high-speed network.

The commission's plans to place more emphasis on the market in the allocation of frequencies also met with resistance. A purely market oriented approach to the future management of frequencies would fail to take sufficient account of the public interest, warned a representative of ARD and ZDF. Free terrestrial broadcasting and media plurality could only be retained with individual licenses. Representatives of broadcasters expressed scepticism towards the idea of an EU-level frequency regulator. The community's complicated assignment procedures would lead to a lack of transparency for participants in the market; assignment of frequencies should remain in national hands. By contrast, telecommunications and mobile telephone operators hope to achieve significantly better access to frequencies with a centralised frequency assignment procedure. However, EuroISPA warned that the frequency auctions under consideration would allow market dominant companies to clean up. (Monika Ermert)


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