European Parliament to get new powers over Oftel

European Parliament adopts legal framework that will give it new powers over regulators such as Oftel

The European Parliament has voted to adopt three draft directives dealing with a proposed new regulatory framework for communications networks that will put now limits on bodies such as the UK's telecoms regulator Oftel.

If the new regulatory framework becomes law, the European Commission would gain new powers over regulatory bodies such as Oftel. The commission would be able to stop Oftel acting in a way that would be detrimental to the single market.

Oftel has come under increasing criticism in the UK for its perceived failure to force BT to sort out the unbundling the local loop, seen as a crucial step in driving broadband Internet access here. Last month the regulator was forced to intervene in unbundling process, following in-fighting between BT and rival operators.

The three proposals, voted on late last week, are part of a package of eight submitted by the Commission which are intended to provide a new framework for regulating electronic communications networks and services.

Such a framework would replace the current maze of 28 different legislative texts, according to the Commission. The aim is to increase competition, so as to bring consumers lower prices, wider choice and better services. It is also seeking to bring the legal framework into line with technological changes.

The new legal framework will cover all satellite-based and terrestrial communications networks, including both the public telephone network and networks using the Internet protocol, as well as cable television, mobile and terrestrial broadcasting networks.

The new draft directives are a response to the Lisbon European Council's call for a fully integrated and liberalised telecommunications market to be created by the end of 2001 in order to pave the way for the transition to a digital, knowledge-based society.

Is broadband coming to your neighbourhood? Find out with ZDNet UK's Broadband Britain Guide.

Have your say instantly, and see what others have said. Click on the TalkBack button and go to the Telecoms forum.

Let the editors know what you think in the Mailroom. And read what others have said.