BusinessEurope o Europejskim kodeksie łączności elektronicznej

BusinessEurope, organizacja której członkiem jest Konfederacja Lewiatan, przygotowała opinię ws. Europejskiego kodeksu łączności elektronicznej. Przedstawiamy treść opinii w języku angielskim.

BusinessEurope supports the Commission's intention to recast the existing framework for electronic communications through the proposal for a European Electronic Communications Code (EECC). We believe this should achieve a more investment-friendly framework for very high capacity networks, the backbone of Europe's digital economy.

The implications of this proposal expand beyond telecommunications. Among other things, it will impact the future of European manufacturing, connected driving, Internet of Things (IoT) and healthcare. This review must help Europe address strategic challenges: we need to launch 5G on a large scale and develop new innovative services and applications to serve European consumers and businesses.

Europe's high-speed connectivity needs are growing exponentially. To extrapolate all of the economic and social benefits digital offers and to regain global digital leadership, greater private investment is needed in Europe's digital infrastructure. These investments should be incentivised in all possible technologies that will increase connectivity by allowing various investment models. 

This will require massive investments from the private sector. Achieving a Gigabit society and reaching the Commission's ambitious connectivity targets set for 2025 is estimated to require around 660 billion EUR investment in very high capacity fixed and mobile networks.

That is why Europe needs a forward-looking and supportive EECC that leads to the acceleration of investment in digital connectivity through sustainable infrastructure-based competition, better coordinated spectrum management, consumer choice and a light-touch, innovation friendly approach to regulation.

BusinessEurope welcomes the objectives of the proposed EECC. However, the co-legislators need to improve the current proposal, so that it supports the development of technologies and competition to boost the roll-out of very high capacity networks, while remaining technology-neutral and future-proof.

To build up and operate such networks, investors require clear and reliable rules. Proposals to expand micro-regulation will create less predictability and less investment confidence, departing from the initial objectives of this proposal. For example, incorporating new untested concepts such as "unilateral market power" would pave the way to impose regulation in virtually all situations where there is a limited number of players.

This proposal should simplify and decrease related national and sector specific regulation, especially if ineffective or obsolete in practice. Obligations should be reduced to enable legal certainty, create greater regulatory uniformity, facilitate investment, innovation and create new services. Co-existence of rules that attempt to address similar demands, such as "end-user protection", imply more costs and complexities for businesses while being confusing for consumers in practice.

The same rules for the same services should apply regardless of the business model and technical functionalities in which these services are provided.. Investment can only be incentivised through a level playing field and balanced regulation. Therefore, there is no need or justification in this context for additional provisions on consumer protection, data privacy or cyber security in addition to the existing rules that already apply to these services. This would also avoid overlapping in favour legal certainty.

Long term, harmonised rules of access to spectrum as a scarce resource is key to enable the rapid and wide deployment of 5G connectivity in Europe and the technologies it could enable. Regulatory certainty and stability is needed in this area to ensure predictable investment. The fragmented nature of spectrum policy, eg. in terms of licensing and awarding, has been instrumental in Europe losing the lead in mobile broadband to other regions. Still, the power to award licences to use spectrum bands should remain with the Member States.

To make Europe into a gigabit society, member states must coordinate, develop and implement 5G Actions Plans, as proposed by the Commission. Frequency bands for deployment of 5G devices and services needs to freed up. Longer license durations, transparent awarding and flexible secondary markets to trade and lease licenses would ensure a predictable spectrum landscape for investors.

In the B2C situation, consistent standards of consumer protection for equivalent services should also be guaranteed. At the same time, it should be made clear that business users are removed from the scope in this regard. It is all too often that B2B providers have to comply with consumer protection measures for no demonstrable reason.

Further to this, to ensure consistency with the Commission's stated objectives, the following provisions have to be reconsidered:

·         The definition of "electronic communications services" is too broad and includes machine-to-machine services. Yet, these service providers are not electronic communication service providers themselves and the nature of the services involved is very different. To create a level playing field and limit adverse effects we advise narrowing its scope. This is also important as this definition has consequences elsewhere, such as the proposal for an ePrivacy Regulation.

·         The definition of VHC should be broadened, in particular by not de facto stipulating up to where fibre should be built. It should cover all deployments with significantly enhanced capabilities in terms of speed and quality that contribute to Europe's connectivity ambitions. Additionally, the principle of technology neutrality should remain a key regulatory principle for national regulatory authorities.

·         Cost orientation remains a default option to price wholesale remedies. The role and nature of price intervention needs to be reassessed, particularly in relation to new network elements so that all operators, including new entrants are encouraged to invest with confidence, promoting sustainable infrastructure competition.

·         The new rules on co-investment are beneficial to enhance the deployment of very high capacity networks within a competitive market environment. However, the regulatory incentives foreseen for the regulatory incentives foreseen for the co-investment model should apply more broadly also to other forms of collaboration, including for single investor and joint venture deployments of new network elements.

·         When applying access regulation, it is crucial not to undermine return on investments already made by private investors. This should therefore be limited to geographical areas where infrastructure-based competition is lacking.

·         Vertically separate undertakings should be regarded as investment facilitators, while understanding that other business models exist and that a fair competitive environment for all these models should be ensured. The related provisions should not be weakened in the legislative process.

·         The definition of "conveyance of signal" could have unintended consequences and hamper innovation at a time when this sector is shifting with the emergence of the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0. We would advise caution in translating existing regulations into this emerging market.

·         Finally, the modernisation of Universal Service still leaves room for national fragmentation. It is essential that Universal Service obligations are funded exclusively by the public budget to avoid market distortion or overcharging in this sector.