EC pares down plans for telecoms super-regulator

European commissioner Viviane Reding has significantly scaled back plans for an EU-wide super-regulator to oversee the telecommunications industry

The European Commission has agreed to pare back plans for a telecoms super-regulator, following a European Parliament vote in September.

Telecoms commissioner Viviane Reding had wanted a large body that could manage and potentially overrule national regulatory bodies such as the UK's Ofcom. However, she faced strong opposition from the national regulators and, on Friday, the Commission announced a new version of the proposed legislation, providing for a body of just 20 members — half of whom would be seconded from the national regulators themselves.

The group, described in Friday's statement as "substantially smaller in size and competences than initially envisaged", will be known as the Body of the European Telecoms Regulators (BETR). Its main function will be to achieve some degree of harmony across telecoms regulation in member states, particularly in terms of breaking the monopolies of incumbent operators — an area where Ofcom has had more success than some of its continental counterparts.

The Commission's move follows the European Parliament's rejection of some of Reding's initial proposals for the EU Telecoms Reform package. The proposals had also included folding network and information security into the new body, a task which will now be left in the hands of the existing European Network and Information Security Agency (Enisa).

Reding's office appears to have kicked back one of the European Parliament's suggestions, which related to spectrum policy. "The creation of a new advisory body for radio spectrum policy, as suggested by the parliament, has… not been retained by the Commission, in order to avoid duplication of work with the existing Radio Spectrum Policy Group," Friday's statement read.

The Telecoms Reform package includes many proposals, most of which — such as boosting the takeup of high-speed broadband — have been markedly less controversial than the genesis of BETR or the fate of Enisa.

"The European Parliament and Council agree with the Commission on the need to strengthen the EU single telecoms market," Reding said in Friday's statement. "We now need to move beyond this consensus on the objectives and reach agreement also on the concrete legislative texts. With the text proposals published by the Commission today, we intend to facilitate the work of the European lawmakers. We have focused on what is important and have left out what is not essential at this moment in time."

The next step for the revised Telecoms Reform package will be its presentation to the Council of Telecoms Ministers on 27 November. The Commission expects the package to become law across the EU by 2010.


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