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The EU Proposes New Telecom Rules

September 14, 2016

The EU hopes new rules boost telecom investment.Photograph by Asif Hassan—AFP/Getty Images

The European Commission announced proposals for reforming EU telecoms and copyright rules on Wednesday, aimed at speeding up investment in fast broadband while boosting revenues for the telecoms industry and media publishers.

The plans would also strengthen the telecoms operators’ hand against tech giants such as Google (GOOG), potentially forcing internet services to share some revenues from their services with them.

The proposals are expected to face fierce opposition from European lawmakers, EU member states and companies across a range of industries in the coming months, meaning they could be watered down before they become law.


Following are some elements of the package of proposals and the likely winners and losers:

Radio Spectrum

Radiowave licenses for operating mobile services could last at least 25 years. This would be a win for operators such as Deutsche Telekom, Orange, and Telefonica (TEF).


Operators would be allowed to join forces without falling foul of EU competition rules as long as, for example, they invest together in high-capacity networks or telecommunications mast-sharing deals that cut the cost of building separate networks. This would be a win for telecoms providers.

Access to Telcoms Network

Former state-owned telecoms providers like Deutsche Telekom, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, and Orange would be obliged to give rivals access to their infrastructure only when and where necessary to address market shortcomings. This would be a win for them over smaller rivals and possible new entrants in the broadband services market.

Telecoms Rules Extended to Web Apps

Security rules covering wiretapping and confidentiality protections, which apply only to telecoms providers, would be extended to cover Microsoft’s Skype (MSFT) and Facebook’s WhatsApp (FB) and other web apps. This would be a loss for internet players.

Broadband Access

High-speed internet access is to be recognized as a universal service under EU law, which would mean everybody should have rights to basic internet and voice communication services at an affordable price. A win for consumers.

Online Content

It would be easier for broadcasters to receive approval from rights holders or collecting societies to show programs online in other EU countries. A win for some broadcasters.

Online video-sharing platforms such as Google’s YouTube, DailyMotion, and Pinterest would be obliged to use technology to identify content uploaded by their users, forcing them to pay musicians and other artists a fairer share of revenues. A win for artists.

News Snippets

Publishers will receive ancillary copyrights, giving them more power to negotiate with Google and other online companies which feature links to their content or simply snippets of their news. A potential win for established publishers, while possibly making it harder on millions of smaller website publishers.