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September 14, 1995

EC STRIVES TO PUT TELECOMS RULES INTO LAW

By CBR Staff Writer

The European Commission will shortly propose a package of legislative measures that are needed to bring about the intended liberalisation of European telecommunications markets in 1998, hears Reuters. The legislation covers licensing procedures and open network provision, while the three directives requiring governments to liberalise some services in 1996 are also being finalised, although in all the major continental markets, led by France and Germany, there is a deal of foot-dragging on this one. Most of the measures are being drawn up under the controversial Article 90 of the Treaty of Rome, which says that monopolies may not behave in a way that obstructs the single market. The Commission is invoking the Article – which allows it to assume dictatorial powers without reference to the Council of Ministers – following what Industry Commissioner Martin Bangemann views as attempts by some countries to drag their heels on liberalisation. Bangemann originally threatened to use Article 90 back in October last year and followed through on his threat in May.

Alternate network operators

The legislation has seven key aspects: a consultation period during which the Commission will talk with the industry, member states and the European Parliament on its July directive requiring governments to adhere to the 1998 liberalisation deadline, but an official in Directorate-General XIII also told Reuters that the component of this which allows so-called alternate network operators to offer already-liberalised telecommunications services from 1996, would probably not be agreed by that date, thus requiring a deadline extension; a directive to allow cable television operators to offer liberalised telecommunications services 1996 and another stipulating that cellular telephony markets must be open to competition by the same date; using Article 100A of the European Community Treaty, which requires the European Council and Parliament to make decisions jointly, the two bodies will draft a directive designed to ensure that new entrants to the telecommunications market have interconnect access with existing networks; an update to the Commission’s two Open Network Provision directives, the framework directive and the leased line directive, to take the forthcoming liberalisation into account is expected within two months; also within two months, a draft directive is expected setting out licensing procedures for providing telecommunications services and infrastructure, which is expected to make special provision for satellite-based Personal Communications Services, by requiring European Community member states to co-ordinate licence award procedures; work is also said to have resumed on a draft directive covering privacy that will lay down rules for protecting personal data in such areas as billing and calling line identification – although that one is looney: if you don’t want your number to be identified, use a call box; and a communication, which is due for completion by the end of November, is being drafted to outline what measures are needed to guarantee universal service in the liberalised market. The Commission has yet to define the scope of its universal service definition, in particular as to whether it should include next-generation services, such as multimedia ones.

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