The European Commission's public hearing on the future of telecommunications, starting Wednesday in Brussels, is expected to attract around 600 delegates as the stage is set to radically alter telecoms regulation across Europe.
The hearing -- which runs over two days -- will cover myriad topics including a shake up in the way telecoms watchdogs do business, changes to the universal service agreement held by incumbent operators and a possible ban on spam email. There will also be a debate on how operators share networks with the possibility of legislation to prevent market abuse.
The European Commission is taking on an increasingly proactive role in promoting the Internet and the digital economy. At the Lisbon summit in March for example, heads of state signed an agreement to accelerate unbundling of local loops -- where incumbent telcos must hand over parts of their network to competitors.
The European Commissioner for the Information Society, Mr Erkki Liikanen, has spoken out on the issues of cheaper Internet services across Europe identifying high cost, lack of computer literacy and a weak legal framework as the main problems facing the development of the Internet in Europe.
Joe MacNamee, spokesman for EuroISPA (European Internet Service Providers' Association) describes the hearing as "very significant" for the future of the telecoms market in Europe. "This type of procedure gives consumer bodies the chance to have their say and give consumers the best possible opportunity to get the best deal. It is transparent and open government at its best and a lot of what is said is going to be taken on board," he says.