Reding: Telecoms Package to survive clause row

Europe's telecommunications commissioner, Viviane Reding, has told ZDNet UK that the Telecoms Package, a collection of new laws that many fear will be sunk by a contentious net-neutrality clause, will not all have to go to a conciliation process."Only [Amendment] 138 will go to conciliation," Reding said at a Brussels conference on Thursday.

Europe's telecommunications commissioner, Viviane Reding, has told ZDNet UK that the Telecoms Package, a collection of new laws that many fear will be sunk by a contentious net-neutrality clause, will not all have to go to a conciliation process.

"Only [Amendment] 138 will go to conciliation," Reding said at a Brussels conference on Thursday. "That is the instruction that ministers have given to the new presidency."

Amendment 138 states that internet access is a fundamental right. The clause is widely seen as pro-net-neutrality, because it would make it impossible to throw users off the internet for doing things like filesharing copyrighted content.

The Commission has already stated that it does not see the need for the amendment, as national laws already prohibit extrajudicial disconnections.

The European Parliament's passage of Amendment 138 has caused a great deal of anger in the European diplomatic community, as the rest of the Telecoms Package had previously been agreed between parliamentarians and the Council of Telecoms Ministers, who always said they would not accept such a clause.

According to a source close to the negotiations that have been going on between parliamentarians and ministers, Reding's assertion that Amendment 138 will be the only part of the Telecoms Package to go to conciliation is correct, thanks to some form of "gentleman's agreement between the institutions".

It is not technically possible to confine the conciliation process to just Amendment 138 - at the very least, a large chunk of the Telecoms Package needs to go with it - but, according to the source, the key players from the first round of negotiations (particularly MEPs Trautmann and Harbour) have been reelected and will retain their roles, and "the optimistic scenario is, with goodwill on both sides, they can agree a gentleman's agreement. That's where most people want to take this."

On the issue of why the European Parliament voted through an amendment they knew would risk sinking the whole package, the source suggested that this came about as a result of two factors.

The first factor was a small group of MEPs who wanted the net-neutrality clause, and the second was the order of voting being switched, leading some MEPs to accidentally vote for the wrong version of the Telecoms Package text. This was, in the words of the source, a "cock-up".

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