All communications service providers have the right to be treated in a non-discriminatory, transparent and objective manner by national regulatory authorities and charged using a clear fee structure. They also must comply with obligations, covering areas such as interoperability, contribution to funding universal service, data and privacy protection and consumer protection.

The Authorisation Directive establishes that general authorisations by Member States must guarantee at least the following basic rights for service and network providers:

  • The right to provide electronic communications networks and services, whether public or non-public, subject to a number of conditions
  • The right to apply for authorisation to install facilities and to have the application treated by the relevant authority in an objective, non-discriminatory way
  • The right to negotiate interconnection with other providers and, in the case of providers of public services, to obtain support from the national regulatory authority when negotiations with operators with significant market power fail
  • The right for providers of public networks and services to be considered for designation as a universal service provider

By guaranteeing these basic rights, national regulators should create a level playing field for service providers, thereby enhancing competition to the benefit of consumers. However, in certain circumstances, the general authorisation may be supplemented by regulatory decisions on individual services and networks. National regulators can establish individual rights of use concerning rights of way, rights to use the radio spectrum, and rights to use numbers. They can also establish obligations related to service providers with significant market power, and obligations relating to the provision of universal service.

The Directive also establishes that the general authorisation can only contain conditions which are specific to the electronic communications sector and are one of the types permitted, and that these conditions cannot be duplicated in individual regulatory decisions.

Interconnection

All operators of public communications networks in the EU have both a right and an obligation to negotiate interconnection with each other in order to allow users of one network to communicate with users on other networks and allow them access to services provided on other networks. In a newly liberalised market, terms and conditions for interconnection to the incumbent operator’s network are critical for successful market opening. The Directive gives national regulators flexibility to encourage interconnection.

Administrative charges and usage fees

Member States may impose two types of levies on providers of electronic communication networks or services: administrative charges and usage fees.
Administrative charges are intended to cover the costs incurred by the national regulatory authorities in managing the general authorisation system and rights of use, in monitoring compliance and enforcing specific regulatory obligations. Regulators are obliged to publish a yearly overview of administrative costs and of the charges collected in order to verify that costs and charges are in balance and are required to make adjustments where appropriate.

In addition to administrative charges, Member States may impose fees for the right to use radio frequencies, numbers and for rights of way. Such fees are intended to ensure the optimal use of these resources and should be proportionate to that purpose as well as objectively justified, transparent and non-discriminatory. Usage fees can be set at a fixed level or determined by auctions.

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