Encouraging quality connectivity to create the Digital Single Market
As part of the EU strategy to create a Digital Single Market ("DSM"), the European Commission has recently proposed a new European Electronic Communications Code (the "EEC Code"). The EEC Code merges the existing four key telecoms Directives (the Framework, Authorisation, Access and Universal Service Directives) into a new Directive, in order to create a new regulatory framework to meet Europe's growing connectivity needs.
The EEC Code introduces a number of new initiatives in order to encourage investment in high-capacity networks and improve Europe's competitiveness. Some of the key features of the EEC Code include:
New regulation of over-the-top ("OTT") VoIP communication services Significant amendments to the universal service regime Simplification of access regulation A coordinated approach to spectrum allocation Amendments to voice termination rules Strengthened consumer rights The EEC Code was announced together with an action plan for the rollout of 5G and free public WiFi. We have considered these proposed changes in more detail below 2. Over-the-Top Providers
A notable change proposed by the EEC Code will be that online providers of OTT VoIP communications services equivalent to those of traditional telecoms operators will be covered by similar regulatory obligations and rules. Currently, OTT VoIP services are generally not subject to some of the regulatory obligations applicable to traditional telecoms providers (eg, access to emergency numbers, switching and customer contract obligations and data protection), even though the service provided to customers may be largely equivalent. Most of these obligations will apply to OTT VoIP services which use telephone numbers (eg, Skype), which will now have to provide certain contractual information to customers and ensure that they meet requirements relating to access to emergency services.
Other obligations apply to all OTT services including those that do not use telephone numbers (eg, WhatsApp), which will now be subject to rules regarding security and equivalent access for users with disabilities.
Amendments to Universal Service Regime
The EEC Code proposes to remove the mandatory inclusion of legacy universal services, such as public payphones, in order to focus the universal services regime on modern services required by EU citizens. For example, the EEC Code provides that, for the first...