04 December, 2017

ETNO statement ahead of today's Telecommunications Council

Brussels, 4 December 2017 – ETNO, the Association representing Europe’s leading providers of digital networks and services, calls for telecom Ministers to keep the ambition high when discussing historic reforms such as the Electronic Communications Code and the ePrivacy Regulation.

Council: telcos call for an ambitious political drive to achieve an innovative Gigabit Society

With Europe gearing up to deliver the Gigabit Society to its citizens, it is important that regulatory actions lead to a major boost of network investment and create more space for innovation. Increased regulatory pressure and outdated approaches to digital innovation would harm 5G, fibre deployment and consumer choice.

Investment in 5G and fibre should remain in focus

A step change in the pace of 5G and fibre investment is essential to enable sustained societal and economic growth in Europe. It is extremely concerning to see how analysts and investors have decided to ring the alarm bell on current EU telecoms reform, stating that it is likely to harm investment and hamper 5G and fibre deployment (Financial Times, November 2017; HSBC, European Regulatory Update, October 2017).
The current policy options being discussed in the context of the Electronic Communications Code include only investment-depressing measures. It is important to flag the following:

•    Pro-investment and co-investment measures in the original Commission proposal are being aggressively watered down. They were designed to overcome the wait-and-see approach, while maintaining regulation only where necessary. Today, alternative operators invest at a slower pace as they can obtain regulated offers for access. At the same time, network owners do not invest as much as they could because returns are artificially suppressed by wholesale regulation. Fostering investment and competition also requires that provisions for investment incentives apply to all operators, irrespective of whether their business model is wholesale-only or vertically integrated.
•    Spectrum licenses need to ensure the necessary certainty for 5G. Interim reviews or short durations, as proposed by legislators, are interpreted by markets as a deterioration of the current situation and they would not deliver on the intended objectives;
•    The introduction of Joint Dominance (JD) rules, as proposed by the Parliament, is not compatible with the purpose and design of Europe’s telecom laws, which strictly align the threshold for regulatory intervention with dominance under competition law. JD would reverse the cardinal principle that more competition must lead to less regulation. This has already sent chilling signals to markets and it will create unprecedented uncertainty;
•    Additional retail price regulation is harmful and unjustified. With consumers eagerly taking-up free VoIP services and dedicated tariff plans, the European Commission has found no evidence or justification for regulating intra-EU calls. This would be at odds with requesting the industry to increase investment efforts.
As negotiations on the Code evolve, the sum of all the negative elements currently being put forward is likely to chill any investor appetite for 5G and fibre investment. A silo-approach to negotiations diverts the attention from societal and economic objectives.

Confidentiality of information and consumer choice should inform ePrivacy change

European telcos are at the forefront in advocating for the confidentiality of information and we champion its application, especially as trust is the main differentiator in our offer to customers.

In order to ensure clarity for consumers and certainty for businesses, the ePrivacy Regulation should be fully in line with the GDPR, which adequately safeguards the processing of personal data. A rigorous alignment on data processing is especially important to ensure the delivery of innovative services, in full compliance with the confidentiality principle.

Overly restrictive measures on ePrivacy would not add meaningful protection of individuals, but they would hamper the telcos ability to deliver increased consumer choice, by entering the digital service space with new offers.
For media inquiries: Alessandro Gropelli, Director of Communications, +32 476 94 18 39 - gropelli@etno.eu

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