Following the landmark political agreement reached on 30th June to end roaming surcharges and guarantee an open internet in the Digital Single Market (DSM), the European Commission is now launching a comprehensive 360° review of the EU telecoms rules. And we will need your input.

This review is a key part of the Commission's strategy for a Digital Single Market, adopted on May 6. It will look at to what extent we need to modernise the telecoms regulatory environment to address technological and market challenges. The review will be closely coordinated with other DSM initiatives, like those on audiovisual media services, platforms and intermediaries and trust and security.  

The Commission also has the legal obligation to ensure that EU rules function correctly. So, this week we are starting a Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT) evaluation, by asking the Body of the European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) and national telecom regulators for their views on the need for reform. We also need them to provide us with factual data on the application of the current framework.

Our next step comes in September when we launch a broad public consultation to gather your views on how to ensure future-proof telecoms rules in the Digital Single Market. The consultation will be open for 12 weeks. This will be followed by a series of meetings and workshops with Ministries, European Parliament committees, the regulatory community, users and the industry at large.

Evaluation of existing rules

What will the review look like? The first step will be to assess whether current EU telecoms rules have met their objectives, notably enhancing internal market, promoting competition and end-user interests. This will be assessed on the basis of the evaluation criteria established in the Commission's Better Regulation Guidelines (i.e. effectiveness, efficiency, coherence, relevance and EU added value).

Developing future-proof telecom rules for a connected Digital Single Market

The review aims to help us design rules that are fit for purpose for 2020 and beyond. We need to ensure a regulatory environment that underpins sustainable, market-based high-performance broadband (fixed and wireless) infrastructures for the EU's Digital Single Market.

Commissioner Oettinger will go into greater detail on the topics to be addressed in the review when he speaks at IFA 2015 in Berlin, in early September. To give a foretaste, here are the three overarching challenges:   

  1. Ensuring that competition as investment driver delivers fixed and wireless connectivity to everyone throughout the DSM
  • How to address connectivity in (rural) areas where market regulation does not provide solutions?
  • How to ensure that access regulation incentivises efficient future-proof infrastructure investments while safeguarding sustainable competition?
  • Can we support the ongoing convergence of fixed and wireless networks with more common and coordinated assignment conditions for wireless broadband?
  • Do we need to define more clearly the connectivity ambition in terms of speeds, quality and capacity and reflect them in regulation to foster efficient investment?
  1. Ensuring adequate rules & fair competition for comparable electronic communication services, regardless if provided by electronic communications service providers or by other market players
  • How to respond to the convergence of online applications and traditional services to ensure proportionate regulation and a level playing field to protect end-users and promote fair competition between digital players that provide communications services?
  • Which services should still be subject to sector-specific rules, which end-user protection can be better guaranteed with horizontal legislation?
  1. Enhancing regulatory consistency across Member States with an institutional set-up that delivers convergent market outcomes
  • How to enhance regulatory consistency across Member States to support companies operating across the Digital Single Market?
  • How can we ensure that citizens get the best value for money from their national Regulatory authorities, when it comes to the management of scarce resources, such as spectrum and numbers?
  • Can existing bodies like BEREC and Radio Spectrum Policy Group (RSPG) become more efficient in developing single market solutions?

Widely and thorough debate

Addressing these challenges will require an in-depth discussions and input from a wide range of stakeholders. We are, in particular, interested in the views of those companies and industries that will rely on connectivity (for them and/or their customers) to pursue their future business strategies.

This is why, in addition to undertaking number of specific studies on market regulation, on market entry, on the scope of universal service, on Telecom & OTT business models and on Interoperability of access products, we will also launch a public consultation on the future connectivity needs of citizens and businesses.

I am counting on your input and look forward to hearing all your views, after a relaxing summer holiday.