EU Telecoms Package Threatens Government's Plans To Disconnect Internet Users

The European Parliament and European Council have agreed new wording for a contentious provision in the EU Telecoms Package; it seeks to ensure that Internet users' fundamental rights and freedoms must be respected by Member States. The agreement sees the resolution of a political stand-off between the European Parliament, which sought to protect consumer rights, and the European Council, which did not wish to prevent Member States from introducing new enforcement systems to prevent Peer to Peer (P2P) file-sharing. The result is a compromise that the UK Government will need to consider in their keenly awaited plans to tackle illicit P2P file-sharing.

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Telecoms Package Finalised The 'Telecoms Package' is an umbrella term for the latest package of new EU legislation designed to update and harmonise telecoms regulation in the EU. It will impose new minimum standards on telecoms service providers in their dealings with customers, and provides new powers for the European Council to intervene where competition is being stifled by dominant players. It will also create a new body of European regulators to provide greater consistency and coordination in the national regulation of telecoms markets.

Now that the European Parliament and European Council have agreed to a revised text, the whole Telecoms Package should be approved at the next European Parliament Plenary session in late November. The package is expected then to enter into force by early 2010 and Member States are likely to be required to give effect to its provisions by May 2011.

Fundamental Freedoms and Access to the Internet The Telecoms Package had been delayed by a controversial clause relating to the circumstances in which consumers' access to electronic communications systems may be restricted.

In September 2008, members of the European Parliament approved a new provision, known as amendment 138, which would have required telecoms regulators to apply the recognised principle: "that no restriction may be imposed on the fundamental rights and freedoms of end-users without a prior ruling by the judicial authorities, notably in accordance with Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union on freedom of expression and information, save when public security is threatened and ruling may be subsequent."

This provision sought to enshrine the established principle that any action restricting use of a network...

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