The European Parliament today voted to accept new regulations to shape the development of the communications sector for the foreseeable future.
According to the European Parliament, the "telecoms package" seeks to:
- Strengthen consumer rights and privacy protection
- Boost investment in new high-speed communications infrastructure
- Ensure regulatory consistency across the EU through a central regulatory authority
- Free parts of the 900MHz radio spectrum for reuse in land-based wireless broadband
- Force network operators to separate infrastructure from services
The measures affect all electronic communications including mobile and fixed telephones, broadcasting, wireless and fixed internet. It follows a two-year negotiation between the European Parliament, the European Commission and the 27 member states.
The package allows access providers the right to "shape" traffic provided they warn consumers that they do it, and give an indication of what type of traffic may be restricted or blocked.
However, critics charge that the plans give too much power to network operators and internet service providers and too little protection to consumer rights.
They believe that traffic shaping will slow or reduce investment in new faster networks because it encourages network operators to optimise the efficiency of their networks rather than the users' online experience.
A key driver for the new regulations has been the impending switchover of the television broadcast sector from analogue to digital operation, which has freed radio frequencies for reuse. This has coincided with a similar shift in telephony and the subsequent rise in popularity of the internet and mobile telephony.