The last-minute addition of a Net-neutrality clause to a package of telecommunications reforms will probably delay the package's approval by telecoms ministers, the European Parliament has said.
On Wednesday the Parliament voted
through the Telecoms Package, which includes a mixture of reforms covering
topics ranging from number-porting and data-breach
notification to radio-spectrum
use and the establishment of a Europe-wide
The sticking point is a clause inserted shortly before the vote that says "no
restriction may be imposed on the fundamental rights and freedoms of end users,
without a prior ruling by the judicial authorities… save when public security is
threatened". The Telecoms Package also stated that Internet access was a
The clause in question, numbered 138/46, is widely seen as a way of stopping
so-called "three-strikes" legislation, such as the Hadopi bill that the French
parliament rejected last month but will reconsider on 12 May. Such legislation
can force ISPs to cut off users who are suspected of illegal file-sharing.
The Council of Telecoms Ministers will convene in mid-June to approve or
reject the Telecoms Package. Given the Council's known opposition to the
Net-neutrality clause, the European Parliament said in a statement on Wednesday
that it expected the entire package to be delayed, despite the two sides having
informally agreed the rest of the package beforehand.
"By amending an informal agreement reached with [the] Council, MEPs send the
whole 'telecom package' to conciliation," the statement read. "The EP does,
however, agree with the Council on investments in new communications
infrastructure, the reform of radio spectrum use, clear consumer rights and
In its statement, the European Parliament said new negotiations would be
likely to start after the next European elections, when a new Council Presidency
is in place. This would imply a resumption of discussions in September, which
could take the package's implementation date through to 2010.
One element of the Telecoms Package that now faces delay is a set of
guidelines for national regulators on investment in next-generation broadband.
These guidelines are designed to provide certainty to dominant telecoms firms
who might be planning to roll out fiber, but are not yet sure whether existing
obligations to provide competitors with open access might hamper the returns on
According to the European Parliament's statement, the Council of Telecoms
Ministers had already agreed that "any access obligation to open this new
infrastructure to competitors will have to take appropriate account of the risk
incurred by the investing undertakings" and should allow for "co-operative
agreements between investors and access-seeking parties", to diversify
In a statement following Wednesday's vote, Ilsa Godlovitch, director of
regulatory affairs at the European pro-competition telecom group Ecta, said the
vote "may delay adoption of the package but it does not remove the need for firm
and urgent action by regulators to make sure telecom markets are