7 takeaways from Parliament’s telecom amendments


Parliament came out swinging with more than 1,000 amendments to the rapporteur’s report on reforming Europe’s telecom laws, according to a copy obtained by POLITICO.

Themes included more ambitious connectivity targets, air wave spectrum and 5G future technologies.

Even rapporteur Pilar del Castillo Vera proposed changes to the text to clarify some of her positions. Now, her office will try to shepherd a compromise across party lines.

Here are seven takeaways and potential battle grounds:

Licenses: Part of the Commission’s proposal in September offered guarantees for long-term spectrum licenses to help spur investment by giving companies certainty. One group of MEPs, including European People’s Party members Michał Boni and Gunnar Hökmark, supported the rapporteur’s push to extend spectrum licenses to 30 years, up from the Commission’s 25-year offer. French Socialist MEP Edouard Martin wanted 15 years. Some other Socialist MEPs pushed to leave it open-ended as a “long-term” license, which would give national governments more control.

Competition: ALDE members from the Netherlands, Marietje Schaake, and Estonia, Kaja Kallas, wanted to boost competition “by the removal of existing barriers to entry at the infrastructure level.” Kumpula-Natri also called for fair competition in the allocation of spectrum, stressing that national regulators should ensure frequencies aren’t dominated by a few operators. A group of socialists also said regulators should be able to demand access to certain networks and infrastructure to fight “oligopolistic” market structures.

Cross-border services: Kallas called for simpler rules for international operators. Companies that work across borders should be able to get a single EU authorization from their home country.

Privacy: Danish ALDE member Morten Helveg Petersen placed a huge emphasis on consumer protection, adding many references to privacy in the text. Kumpula-Natri also said public networks should advise users on ways to protect their communications, like suggesting potential encryption technologies. Kallas and Schaake also want end-to-end encryption.

Wider connectivity: Many MEPs, like Kallas and Eva Kaili, a Greek member of the European People’s Party, called for a wider roll-out of fiber and high-speed connectivity across the bloc. They argued that “premises,” such as rural homes and farms, should have access to the same high-speed service as large office and apartment buildings.

Digital divide: There was widespread support from MEPs, including Kaili, Miapetra Kumpula-Natri and José Blanco López (Socialists & Democrats from Finland and Spain, respectively) for a “gigabit society” with high-speed internet connectivity for all. They all added explicit mentions to bridging the digital gap in their proposed tweaks.

Rapporteur tweaks: del Castillo Vera clarified her “use it or lose it” position for spectrum frequencies. Instead, she said procedures should be put in place to explain what rights companies have to use certain frequencies, and how often they have to use them before a country considers cancelling their rights.