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Net neutrality vote forces EU telecoms ministers to reconsider reform package

Ian Grant

A user's internet access cannot be restricted without prior ruling by courts.

This crucial restatement yesterday of fundamental European citizens' rights by members of the European Parliament has forced telecoms ministers to reconsider a raft of measures to reform the continent's telecommunications market.

There was overwhelming support for much in the package. But the whole package is likely to go to conciliation after the upcoming elections in June.

A Department for Business (BERR) spokesperson said, "We are extremely pleased that after many months of negotiation it now looks as if we are to have agreement on a balanced package of measures." BERR said they would promote investment in new technologies and services and enhance competition while protecting consumers.

MEPs passed a motion to reallocate frequencies in the 900MHz band, a move that could save network operators €1.6bn rolling out broadband services in rural areas. BERR said it was very pleased.

"Along with the liberalisation of spectrum markets being introduced, this revised directive will allow more flexible use of the 900Mhz spectrum band for new advanced wireless services," BERR said.

BERR said it was disappointed that MEPs reinstated the amendment to guarantee consumer access to and use of the net, otherwise known as net neutrality.

BERR said, "Although the government is pleased at the overall progress made, we need to consider the details of this vote and will decide how to respond ahead of the Telecoms Council on 12 June."

EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding welcomed the European Parliament's "strong endorsement" of the reform package. "Now the ball is in the court of the Council of Telecoms Ministers to decide whether or not to accept this package," she said.

She said the rejection of some consumer rights proposals was "an important restatement" of the fundamental rights of EU citizens. "For many, it is of very high symbolic and political value," she said.

She called on the Council of Ministers to assess the package in the light of the importance of telecoms reform for the recovery of the European economy. "The Telecoms Council should assess whether agreement on the package is still possible or whether the discussion will have to start again with the new European Parliament in autumn," she said.


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