EC in discussions over basic telecoms for all EU citizens

The European Commission (EC) has launched a public consultation on what is the best approach to ensuring that basic telecoms services are available for all EU citizens. The current 2002 obligations only guarantee a right to "basic internet access" and the EC is now questioning whether to extend this to cover broadband services as well, among other things.

Digital Agenda Commissioner, Neelie Kroes, said: "This consultation will help us to check if we need to update the rules to ensure that all EU citizens have access to essential communication services, including fast internet. As markets and technology are changing fast, we have to make sure that nobody is excluded from the digital society".

In terms of broadband the EC is seeking views on the following position:

Broadband: Wide broadband coverage is crucial to foster growth and jobs in Europe. But 23 per cent of people in rural areas do not have access to fixed broadband networks. Should universal service principles help to reach the EU's goal of 'broadband for all', or would competition on the open telecoms market or other policy options be more effective?

Here in the UK our Government is currently still trying to flesh out its own Universal Service Commitment (USC) (note: not an 'Obligation'), which could be affected by what the EU does. This aims to make a minimum broadband download speed of 2Mbps available to everybody by 2012.

However the UK policy has many flaws, such as its inability to specify minimum upload speeds, the need for low latency connections and a seeming inability to cover the all important aspect of affordability. The EC’s consultation closes on 7th May 2010 and the Commission will report on the results in a Communication, which it may follow with legislative proposals before the end of 2010.

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