Guide To Telecoms, Media And Internet Laws And Regulations, 2014 Edition

1 Overview

1.1 Please describe the: (a) telecoms; (b) audio-visual media distribution; and (c) internet infrastructure sectors in Ireland, in particular by reference to each sector's: (i) importance (e.g. measured by annual revenue); (ii) 3-5 most important companies; (iii) whether they have been liberalised and are open to competition; and (iv) whether they are open to foreign investment.

The telecommunications industry underpins business in Ireland, particularly in the export market. According to the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), electronic network and service revenues in the year to March 2013 were over €3.7bn; the telecommunications industry invests €600 million every year on capital projects and provides direct employment to over 20,000 people.

Currently, there are four mobile network operators in the Irish market: Hutchison 3G Ireland (Three); Vodafone Ireland Limited; Meteor (owned by the incumbent telecoms operator Eircom Limited); and Telefonica Ireland Limited (O2). In June 2013 Hutchison 3G UK Holdings Limited entered into an agreement with Telefonica SA for the proposed acquisition of O2 (subject to regulatory clearance). Eircom remains the largest fixed service provider (voice and broadband). UPC Ireland, British Sky Broadcasting (Sky) and a number of smaller operators also provide certain fixed voice and broadband services.

The Irish broadcasting market has revenues of €1,157 million. Television services in Ireland include public service, commercial and community stations, across a range of platforms, including terrestrial, satellite, cable and Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Services (MMDS). Audio-visual media distribution as regards signal transmission is regulated as part of the telecoms sector. Saorview is Ireland's public broadcasting digital terrestrial television (DTT) service following analogue switch-off, which occurred on 24 October 2012. In terms of content, public broadcasting television channels are provided by RTE and TG4 (an Irish language service). TV3 is the only privately-owned terrestrial alternative to the public service television broadcasters and operates two services - TV3 and 3e.

Both the telecoms and broadcasting sectors are fully liberalised and open to foreign investment.

1.2 List the most important legislation which applies to the: (a) telecoms; (b) audio-visual media distribution; and (c) internet, sectors in Ireland.

Communications Regulation Act 2002 (as amended by the Communications Regulation (Amendment) Act 2007) (2002 Act). European Communities (Electronic Communications Networks and Services); (Framework); (Access); (Authorisation); (Universal Service and User's Rights); and (Privacy and Electronic Communications) Regulations 2011. Wireless Telegraphy Acts 1926 - 2009. European Communities (Directive 2001/31/EC) Regulations 2003. Broadcasting Act 2009. European Communities (Television Broadcasting) Regulations 1999. European Communities (Audiovisual Media Services) Regulations 2010. 1.3 List the government ministries, regulators, other agencies and major industry self-regulatory bodies which have a role in the regulation of the: (a) telecoms; (b) audio-visual media distribution; and (c) internet, sectors in Ireland.

Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg). Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR). Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). Competition Authority. National Consumer Agency (to be amalgamated with the Competition Authority in late 2013). Internet Services Providers Association of Ireland (ISPAI). Data Protection Commissioner. 1.4 Are there any restrictions on foreign ownership or investment in the: (a) telecoms; (b) audio-visual media distribution; and (c) internet, sectors in Ireland?

No. Non-EU applicants for broadcasting contracts are required to have some connection to the EU e.g., a place of residence or registered office within the EU.

2 Telecoms


2.1 Is Ireland a member of the World Trade Organisation? Has Ireland made commitments under the GATS regarding telecommunications and has Ireland adopted and implemented the telecoms reference paper?

Yes, Ireland is a member of the WTO, and has made commitments in respect of adopting Supplement 3 for telecommunications. The telecoms reference paper has been adopted and implemented.

2.2 How is the provision of telecoms (or electronic communications) networks or services regulated?

The provision of an electronic communications service (ECS) or electronic communications network (ECN) (or both) is subject to the authorisation regime set out in the Authorisation Regulations, which confers a general right to provide ECN or ECS (or both) subject to certain conditions. Persons wishing to provide ECN or ECS (or both) to third parties must notify ComReg in advance.

Additional obligations apply in respect of an authorised operator designated as having significant market power (SMP) or as being a universal service provider.

In addition to complying with the conditions of the general authorisation, mobile network operators and providers of fixed wireless services need to obtain a licence under the Wireless Telegraphy Acts.

2.3 Who are the regulatory and competition law authorities in Ireland? How are their roles differentiated? Are they independent from the government?

The Competition Authority is responsible for administering and enforcing the Competition Act 2002-2012 (Competition Act). ComReg is responsible for the regulation of the electronic communications sector in Ireland and the BAI is responsible for the regulation of the broadcasting and audio-visual content sector. The Communications Regulation (Amendment) Act 2007 gives ComReg co-competition powers with the Competition Authority that enable it to pursue issues arising in the electronic communications sector under competition law and includes the power to investigate and take action in respect of anti-competitive agreements and abuse of dominance.

Pursuant to the Competition Act, ComReg and the BAI are each party to a cooperation agreement with the Competition Authority to facilitate cooperation, avoid duplication and ensure consistency between the parties insofar as their activities consist of, or relate to, the determination of a competition issue.

The Authority, ComReg and the BAI are each independent from government.

2.4 Are decisions of the national regulatory authority able to be appealed? If so, to which court or body, and on what basis?

Decisions of ComReg, the Competition Authority and the BAI can be challenged by way of judicial review.

A decision of ComReg may be challenged by way of statutory appeal in accordance with the Framework Regulations. The appeal must be brought by a user or undertaking that is affected by the decision within 28 calendar days of the date the user/undertaking has been notified of the decision. An appeal can be made on the basis of an error of law or errors of fact.

A decision of the Competition Authority may be challenged pursuant to section 15 of the Competition Act (relating to the making of a category declaration) by any undertaking concerned or any other person aggrieved by the making of the decision within 28 days. Further, a merger decision of the Competition Authority can be appealed by any of the undertakings involved in the notified merger within one month, on any issue of law or fact.


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