The public consultation on the evaluation and the review of the regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services took place from 11 September 2015 to 7 December 2015. This report takes stock of the contributions and trends that emerge from them focusing primarily on the quantitative analysis of the responses.

Objectives of the Public consultation

The consultation was launched to gather input for the evaluation process in order to assess the current rules and to seek views on possible adaptations to the framework in light of market and technological developments, with the objective of contributing to the Digital Single Market Strategy.

Who replied to the consultation?

The consultation gathered a total of 244 replies from stakeholders in all Member States as well as from stakeholders from outside the Union.

Respondents by place of residence


Responses were sought from consumers, providers of electronic communications networks and services, national and EU operator associations, civil society organisations, broadcasters, technology providers, Internet and online service providers, undertakings relying on connectivity and wider digital economy players, national authorities at all levels, national regulators and any other interested stakeholders.

The participation from different categories of organisations was balanced with stakeholders from the wider digital economy actively responding along with consumer groups, public authorities and electronic communications networks and services providers. This includes stakeholders affected by the policy, those who have to implement it and those who have generally a stated interest in the policy:

Categories of respondents

Preliminary trends observed in the replies

The Public Consultation covered a general evaluation of the current framework as well as more detailed evaluation and review of the specific elements of the framework, namely (i) network access regulation, (ii) spectrum management and wireless connectivity, (iii) sector-specific regulation for communications services (iv) universal service rules and (v) institutional set up and governance.

Without prejudice to the results of the analysis of the consultation, the following trends can be observed :

• Connectivity is broadly recognised as the underlying driving force for the digital society and economy, underpinned by technological changes and evolving consumer and market demands.

• Good connectivity is perceived as a necessary condition to achieve the Digital Single Market. Many respondents pointed to the need for policy measures and possible adjustments to current policy and regulatory tools to support the deployment of infrastructure in line with future needs.

• A number of inputs asserted that the current regulatory framework does not much advance the internal market. There is a general perception that the regulatory framework needs to be adjusted to the current market dynamics. Many respondents however acknowledged the achievements ushered in by the liberalisation of the telecom markets, in particular in terms of end-user benefits and competition within most national markets.

• On spectrum, the importance of wireless connectivity and wireless broadband are acknowledged. In general, industry is supportive of a more co-ordinated approach and seeks additional certainty for investments and possibilities to develop throughout the EU new wireless and mobile communications including 5G.

• Member States' authorities generally underline the achievements in the field of technical harmonisation, and the need for additional coordination to be bottom-up and voluntary; some of them call for a better balance between harmonisation and flexibility. There is general recognition of the importance of a more flexible access and use of spectrum in the future.

• The administrations of several Member States see the need for updating the telecoms rules, for reasons varying from the need to promote investment in next-generation infrastructures to the need to respond to technological and market changes. There are also calls for more flexibility in and simplification of those rules.

• Whereas traditional telecom companies consider that short-term economic gains have been preferred to long-term investment and innovation, alternative operators, BEREC, and consumer organisations consider that the framework has largely delivered on its current objectives.

• Telecom users are generally in favour of the current access regulation, while some consider that the emphasis should be put on service competition rather than on the underlying infrastructure, and that the sharing of infrastructure should be emphasised.

• The vast majority of respondents consider that the review should be the opportunity completely to reconsider the universal service regime. The administrations of the Member States see the need to maintain universal service, with flexibility at Member State level on funding and application to broadband. BEREC supports maintaining the current range of Universal Service Obligation instruments.

• While administrations of several Member States, the regulatory community and consumer organisations still see a need for a sector-specific end-user protection based on high-level minimum harmonisation, the telecom sector calls for more reliance on horizontal legislation and full harmonisation, especially for services. The telecom sector in general but also some administrations argue that same rules should apply to similar services while other administrations, so-called "Over-the-top" players, software and equipment vendors, cable operators and  some broadcasters are of the view that the concept of electronic communications services as currently defined has proven itself.

• While the continuing role of national regulatory authorities and spectrum management authorities is widely acknowledged, a large group of respondents highlights that the institutional set-up at EU level should be revised the better to ensure legal certainty and accountability.

The contributions received cannot be regarded as the official position of the Commission and its services and thus neither the responses nor this summary binds the Commission.

Next steps

The Commission is analysing the replies to the consultation. A full report (synopsis) will be published here in due course. The results will feed into the design and the implementation of EU policy and regulatory instruments, i.e. the review of the regulatory framework for telecommunications.

Contributions

You can find contributions to the consultation under this link.