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EU agrees on rules to reform telecommunications markets

[JURIST] The European Parliament and the Council of Ministers [official websites] on Thursday unanimously reached an agreement [press release] on rules to increase competition between telecommunications providers and protect the consumer rights of Internet and mobile phone users. The agreement on the European Union (EU) Telecoms Reform package was reached after intense negotiations by the conciliation committee, which was arranged by the European Commission (EC) [official website] and composed of representatives of the 27 member states, Parliament, the Council of Ministers, and the EC. EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media Viviane Reding [official website] praised [video] the agreement, saying:

The reform will substantially enhance consumer rights and consumer choice in Europe's telecoms markets, and add new guarantees to ensure the openness and neutrality of the Internet. It will boost competition and investment in telecoms markets, and open up airwaves for new mobile services, allowing Internet broadband for all Europeans.

The committee unanimously agreed on a provision substantially protecting the rights of EU citizens while providing procedural and judicial safeguards and due process rights, which Reding called a "strong signal that the EU takes fundamental rights very seriously." A plenary session of the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers is scheduled to vote on the new provision within the next six weeks. The Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC), established by the agreement to ensure increasingly neutral and open Internet and broadband access for all Europeans, is set to be created in the spring of 2010, followed a year later by the transfer of the Telecoms Reform into the national legislation of the 27 EU member states.

The Telecoms Reform package was initially proposed [press release] by the EC in November 2007. In May, the European Parliament endorsed [press release] the Telecoms Reform, adding a controversial amendment establishing procedural and judicial rights of EU citizens and the degree to which the Internet should be protected by EU law. Last month, the French Constitutional Council [official website, in French] approved [JURIST report] a controversial Internet piracy law [JURIST news archive] that would allow authorities to terminate an individual's Internet access for up to one year after a third violation of intellectual property laws for downloading or sharing movies and music. In contrast, the Finnish government announced last month that Internet access is a legal right [JURIST report] for all citizens, becoming the first country to make such a declaration.

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