Australian Human Rights Commissioner, Edward Santow delivers a keynote address followed by a panel discussion with AI and data experts. Registration is now open.
“Ursula von der Leyen [commission president-elect] promised to spearhead a ‘geopolitical’ commission in Brussels as she promoted Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s Danish competition chief, to be a powerful executive vice-president with an expanded role in charge of regulating US tech companies...", reports the Financial Times. Read more.
The IIC is delighted to announce that the winner of the 2019 Future Leaders’ Competition is Angel Fu, Associate at Clifford Chance, Australia. Angel will be presenting her winning entry at our 50th Annual Conference in London this October.
Hosted by Ofcom, the aim of this discussion was to assess what is actually happening on the ground in terms of investment in advanced networks (fibre and 5G) both in the UK and elsewhere in the world. More details here.
On 5 June 2019, the Court of Justice of the EU ("CJEU") published its ruling on the classification of SkypeOut in the EU following a request for a preliminary ruling from the Belgian Courts. Read the full blog written by Francesco Liberatore and Matthew Buckwell of Squire Patton Boggs.
Margrethe Vestager promoted to European Commission VP EMMA THIS IS BIG NEWS
The next president of the European Commission has steeled Europe for battles with Donald Trump over trade and tech regulation, handing more powers to the bloc’s top antitrust enforcer and urging Brussels to be robust in dealing with global rivals including China, reports the Financial Times. “Ursula von der Leyen [commission president-elect] promised to spearhead a ‘geopolitical’ commission in Brussels as she promoted Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s Danish competition chief, to be a powerful executive vice-president with an expanded role in charge of regulating US tech companies. Ireland’s Phil Hogan, one of Brussels’ most vocal opponents of Brexit and a former agriculture commissioner, has been nominated as the EU’s new trade chief – a role that will put him in charge of negotiating any EU-UK trade deal and managing strained trade relations with the White House. Ms Vestager and Mr Hogan, who will both be serving second terms as commissioners, have been outspoken defenders of European interests against Washington’s trade protectionism and the market dominance of American digital giants.” Vestager, who has been dubbed the “tax lady” by Donald Trump, has dished out record competition has dished out record competition fines to Google and demanded the Irish government claw back taxes from Apple. She will also lead Brussels’ digital policy as an executive vice-president in the new commission. The job will involve pioneering a sweeping new EU Digital Services Act that will regulate how the likes of Facebook and Google’s YouTube police illegal content and combat hate speech. Ursula von der Leyen said: “Digitisation has a huge impact on the way we live, work and communicate. In some fields, Europe has to catch up – like for business to consumers – while in others we are frontrunners – such as in business to business. We have to make our single market fit for the digital age, we need to make the most of artificial intelligence and big data, we have to improve on cybersecurity and we have to work hard for our technological sovereignty." See https://on.ft.com/2kCACEU and commission announcement at https://bit.ly/2kENY3x
Europe/governance – Shermin on home page too
Germany considers competition framework for the digital economy
A commission of experts on “competition law 4.0”, set up by Germany’s Peter Altmaier, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, and chaired by Martin Schallbruch, Heike Schweitzer and Achim Wambach, has presented its recommendations for a new competition framework for the digital economy to the minister. The commission believes that the practical and actual power of consumers to dispose of their own data must be improved, that clear rules of conduct for dominant platforms must be introduced, legal certainty for cooperation in the digital sector must be enhanced, and the institutional linkage between competition law and other digital regulation must be strengthened. With a view to attaining these goals, it has drawn up 22 recommendations relating to platforms, data access and digital ecosystems. Said Martin Schallbruch: “Boosting the autonomy of the consumer is an important tool which can safeguard competition. The easier it is for consumers to port their data from one provider to another or to grant new providers access to data, the easier it will be for rival companies to attack data-based positions of power.” Heike Schweitzer added: “The digital economy breaks up established value chains and leads to a restructuring of markets. If companies are to take advantage of the resulting opportunities for innovation across different markets, they need to be able to experiment with new forms of data pooling and data exchange. However, they are currently lacking legal certainty. We therefore recommend the introduction of a voluntary notification procedure for novel forms of cooperation at European level. This would also give the European Commission greater insights into new market developments and forms of cooperation.” And Achim Wambach noted: “We need rules for dominant platforms. Such platforms should be banned from giving themselves preferential treatment. Also, these platforms should be obliged to deliver portability of user and usage data in real time and in an interoperable data format.” The government says it will study the recommendations and work towards a further development of competition law at European level. The commission’s work has also fed into work by the Economic Affairs Ministry to modernise Germany’s competition legislation, which will shortly be presenting a draft digital competition act. See https://bit.ly/2k7zaKo for the report in German and summary in English.
Arcep consults Europe-wide on spectrum; faces challenge to power of sanction
France’s communications regulator, Arcep, has brought together more than 20 representatives of national authorities from 15 European Union member states to outline the planned terms and procedure for awarding spectrum in the 3490–3800 GHz band in metropolitan France, and to elicit their feedback. The procedure’s draft document was published for public consultation, which ran from 15 July to 4 September. Arcep says it is spearheading the implementation of a procedure that is set out in the European Code adopted in late 2018. In addition to meeting with operators and local authority associations, when drafting its frequency award procedure Arcep’s teams interacted with their European counterparts, in particular those from Germany, Italy and the UK, to discuss the lessons learned from past awards procedures, and to compare the mechanisms used. Arcep says topics also included the quantity of spectrum awarded, the type of obligations imposed on operators and the coexistence of networks in the band. Having completed consultations, Arcep plans to finalise the terms and process for the award process, which will then be submitted to the government before launching the spectrum award procedure in the autumn. Meanwhile Orange France has filed a priority question of constitutionality with the Council of State challenging Arcep’s power of sanction, reports TeleGeography. “Le Monde writes that the incumbent operator has been put on notice several times by Arcep between October 2018 and January 2019 for failing to meet its universal service obligation (USO) for fixed telephony services, quality of service (QoS) shortcomings and its commitments in relation to the deployment of fibre. Orange has claimed that the principles of separation of powers and impartiality guaranteed by the constitution are not respected within Arcep.” See https://bit.ly/2lIiHN2 and https://bit.ly/2mbyzbp
US states embark on competition investigations of Google and Facebook
Attorneys generals for 50 US states and territories have announced an antitrust investigation of Google, embarking on a wide-ranging review of a tech giant that Democrats and Republicans said may threaten competition, consumers and the continued growth of the web, reports the Washington Post. Texas attorney general Ken Paxton charged that Google “dominates all aspects of advertising on the internet and searching on the internet”, though he cautioned that despite his criticism the states had launched an investigation for now and not a lawsuit. Paxton said the probe’s initial focus is online advertising. Google is expected to rake in more than $48 billion in US digital ad revenue this year, far rivalling its peers, while capturing 75% of all spending on US search ads, according to eMarketer. “They dominate the buyer side, the seller side, the auction side and the video side with YouTube,” he said. Some of those attorneys general appeared to raise additional complaints about Google, ranging from the way the company processes and ranks search results to the extent to which it may not fully protect users’ personal information. “Their early rebukes raised the stakes for Google, threatening top-to-bottom scrutiny of its sprawling business beyond just ads. Paxton promised the probe would go wherever the facts lead.” Another group of 11 state attorneys general has begun their own probe against Facebook, exploring whether it violates competition laws and mishandles consumers’ personal information. See https://wapo.st/2kB9pCv and Facebook item at https://wapo.st/2lKvw9N
Report finds negative impacts of high spectrum prices on consumers
The GSMA, the mobile operators body, has issued a report with the main finding that the negative impacts of high spectrum prices on consumers “can no longer be disputed”. The report, titled “The impact of spectrum prices on consumers”, says that countries with poor spectrum policies – which either inflate spectrum or delay spectrum assignments – “are leading to millions of people being left unable to access mobile broadband services or experiencing reduced network quality”. “Spectrum auctions can’t be viewed as cash cows anymore,” said Brett Tarnutzer, the GSMA’s head of spectrum. “Any government that prices spectrum to maximise revenue now does so with full knowledge that its actions will have negative repercussions on citizens and the development of mobile services. We now have clear evidence that shows by restricting the financial ability of operators to invest in mobile networks millions of consumers are suffering.” The GSMA study is claimed to be the first to provide strong evidence to directly link high spectrum prices, and certain other spectrum management practices, to negative consumer outcomes, such as slow network rollout, reduced quality of service and poor mobile coverage. The key findings for the period analysed from 2010 to 2017 are that in developed countries, high spectrum costs played a significant role in slowing the rollout of 4G networks and drove a long-term reduction in 4G network quality; in developing countries, spectrum prices were, on average, almost three times more expensive than in developed countries in relation to expected revenues, and in these countries, high spectrum costs slowed down the rollout of both 3G and 4G networks and drove long-term reductions in overall network quality; and in the countries studied with the highest spectrum prices, the average mobile operator’s 4G network would cover 7.5% more of the population if they had acquired spectrum at the median spectrum price. Further, the timing of spectrum awards had a significant impact on mobile coverage, and the amount of spectrum licensed to operators had a significant impact on network quality. The report is available at https://bit.ly/2mcMwWv
Greece gets broadband help from Europe
The European Commission has approved, under EU state aid rules, €300 million of public support for Greece's ultrafast broadband infrastructure scheme, which aims to provide broadband services to customers in areas with insufficient connectivity. Commissioner MargretheVestager, in charge of competition policy said: “Access to high-performance internet connectivity is crucial for European citizens, for society and the economy.With this decision, the Commission endorses the use of EU funds for the development of ultrafast internet in areas of Greece where private investment is insufficient. This is an important step for competitiveness and innovation in Greece as well as for social and territorial cohesion,enabling Greek households and businesses to benefit fully from the digital single market.” The scheme is financed through theEuropean Regional Development Fund, theEuropean Agricultural Fund for Rural Developmentand private investments, and aims to deliver at least 100 Mbps, upgradable to 1 Gbps, to households, companies and public institutions. It targets areas where no fast broadband infrastructure offering at least 30 Mbps is currently in place, and where no private investor has shown any interest to invest commercially in the near future. The aid will be awarded by way of a transparent and non-discriminatory selection procedure, with all technologies able to compete. The subsidised network will offer full access to all operators on a non-discriminatory basis, while the access prices will be under the control of the Greek telecoms regulator, the Hellenic Telecommunications and Post Commission (EETT). https://bit.ly/2m2RYey
Canada sets up accessibility council; lowers wholesale broadband rates
The organisations responsible for enforcing the Accessible Canada Act have announced the establishment of the Council of Federal Accessibility Agencies. The Accessible Canada Act, which became law in June 2019, requires member organisations of the council to work collaboratively to refer federal accessibility complaints to the right organisation and to foster complementary policies and practices. The council is made up of chairs of the Canadian Transportation Agency, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board, and the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Meanwhile the CRTC has set final wholesale rates that it says will facilitate greater competition and promote innovative broadband services and affordable prices for consumers. The wholesale rates are paid by competitors who access the existing high-speed access networks of the large cable and telephone companies. In 2016, the CRTC set revised interim wholesale rates as those proposed by the service providers were not just and reasonable. The final rates are lower than the interim rates and retroactive to the date they were set in 2016. The monthly capacity rates are 15% to 43% lower than the interim rates. As for the access rates, they are 3% to 77% lower than the interim rates. Operator Shaw Communications said though that “there will be long-term negative consequences to Canadians from the CRTC’s decision to dramatically reduce federally regulated wholesale broadband prices charged to third party internet providers. While the CRTC appears to be trying to use the reseller market as a primary source of broadband competition, it is ignoring the fact that the resale model relies on the investments of facilities-based providers like Shaw to create robust, fast and reliable networks for the future,” CEO Brad Shaw said. “In light of the decision, we are reviewing our future plans for capital expenditure and network deployment.” The CRTC has also published a code of conduct for internet service providers (ISPs). The internet code will come into effect on 31 January 2020 and will provide Canadians with additional safeguards against unexpectedly high bills and help them resolve disputes with their ISP. See https://bit.ly/2lIqlHC (council), https://bit.ly/2Z7nPbL (wholesale) and https://bit.ly/2k9l7Ej (code), and Shaw statement at https://bit.ly/2lM6bfw
US proposes rural development fund for broadband
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed taking its biggest single step to date toward closing the rural digital divide by establishing the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, which would direct up to $20.4 billion to expand broadband in unserved rural areas. It says the proposal “would raise the bar” for rural broadband deployment by making more areas eligible for support and requiring faster service than last year’s Connect America Fund (CAF) phase II reverse auction. “If the FCC ultimately approves these proposals, millions more rural homes and small businesses would be connected to high-speed broadband networks providing up to gigabit speeds.” The FCC is seeking comment on continuing the expansion of broadband where it’s lacking by using a reverse auction that builds on last year’s CAF phase II auction. The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund would focus on areas currently served by “price cap” carriers, along with areas that were not won in the CAF phase II auction and other areas that do not currently receive any high-cost universal service support. The proposal includes raising the standard for broadband deployment from the CAF’s 10 Mbps/1 Mbps minimum to at least 25 Mbps/3 Mbps, with incentives for faster speeds. FCC commissioner, Jessica Rosenworcel, noted a parallel with building the nation’s electricity infrastructure, and said: “We need to begin with where infrastructure is and is not. We need to start with data. We need to develop maps. Of course, right now the FCC has broadband maps from operators. That’s good for starters. But we need to do a whole lot better. Our maps need to be more granular. Then, they need to be verified. I want us to test what we have here in Washington with spot checks in the field, challenges from local authorities, and data from consumer crowdsourcing. This mapping effort is not going to be simple, but it’s vitally important. After all, we will never manage what we do not measure.” Meanwhile a municipal broadband service in Fort Collins, Colorado went live for new customers today, less than 2 years after the city's voters approved the network despite a cable industry-led campaign against it. FCC: https://bit.ly/2kzXDs6 Fort Collins: https://bit.ly/2kIuCdH
Taiwan’s regulator consults on 5G spectrum
Taiwan’s National Communications Commission (NCC) has defended a cap on the amount of bandwidth that operators will be able to acquire in its forthcoming auction of 5G-suitable spectrum, notes TeleGeography. According to the Taipei Times a discussion regarding the upcoming frequency sale was held involving representatives of the country’s telecoms providers. At this meeting the NCC is reported to have said that its plans for a per-operator cap of 100 MHz in the 3.5 GHz band is designed to ensure fair competition. “However, Taiwan Star representative Wang Chun-yi was said to have told the hearing that the bandwidth cap for the 3.5 GHz band should be lowered – to between 70 MHz and 80 MHz – arguing that this would be the only way to guarantee there being four operators in the market. The executive suggested that, even though network and spectrum sharing is encouraged by the NCC, none of the larger providers are likely to consider working with a smaller operator if it has less than 40 MHz of 5G-suitable spectrum.” With the Taiwanese authorities expected to offer up a total of 2,790 MHz in the auction, across the 1800 MHz (20 MHz), 3.5 GHz (270 MHz) and 28 GHz (2,500 MHz) bands, the meeting also explored a number of other areas. Among these, Hsiao Ching-teng, the representative for Far EasTone Telecommunications (FET), was said to have expressed an interest in the NCC limiting the funds raised through the auction of the blocks in the 28 GHz frequency band to a “reasonable” amount, due to the fact that technology and equipment for this band has yet to mature. Meanwhile, it was also reported that NCC spokesperson Hsiao Chi-hung had confirmed the commission had agreed to consider lowering the frequency usage fees to facilitate partnerships between operators and 5G vertical application developers. In latest news, Light Reading reports that the NCC has stipulated that 5G operators should share spectrum, networks and construction. “The changes follow some pushback by local operators, which had asked for more flexibility, such as the ability to form sharing arrangements at the base station level and not just for the entirety of the network. Sharing is mandated by the new Telecommunications Management Act, but it requires the NCC and the operators to agree on the details.” See https://bit.ly/2koUlrL and https://ubm.io/2kuvIdb
Paper looks at goals of informal regulator networks
A paper in the Journal of Common Market Studies, titled “Networks as ‘first best’? Network entrepreneurship and venue shifting in the establishment of the network of Euro‐Mediterranean energy regulators, considers that regulatory networks are usually considered a “second best” instrument of policy integration. “They have no decision‐making powers and unclear policy impact. Yet, regulators often play a leading role in establishing their informal networks. Why do regulators initiate networks?” The author, Francesca Pia Vantaggiato, finds that that regulators form networks to shift the venue of policy discussion from a formal setting, dominated by policymakers, to an informal setting, where they share agenda‐setting power with their peers only. “Regulators forming networks are ‘network entrepreneurs’, for whom the establishment of the network is a policy goal in itself. Bolstered by previous positive networking experiences, network entrepreneurs consider networks a first‐best instrument of policy influence. I analyse the empirical case of the network of energy regulators of the Euro‐Mediterranean (MedReg, established in 2006) through 20 elite interviews. The findings hold implications for our understanding of informal regulatory collaboration in the EU and beyond.” https://bit.ly/2lSyhpr
Coverage targets agreed for 5G spectrum licences in Germany
Germany’s authorities and the country’s mobile operators have agreed to legally binding coverage targets in return for extended payment terms for the acquisition of 5G spectrum licences, reports Mobile World Live. “The pact follows months of arguments and scathing criticism of the conditions imposed by authorities alongside its auction to allocate 5G suitable spectrum, which raised €6.6 billion. Representatives from Deutsche Telekom, newcomer 1&1 Drillisch, Vodafone Germany and Telefonica Deutschland signed the agreement with the Bundesministerium fur Verkehr und digitale Infrastruktur, the government agency responsible for telecoms infrastructure.” Andreas Scheuer, Minister for Transport and Digital Infrastructure, said under the deal that 99% of the country’s households will have reliable voice and data services by the end of 2020. “We now have the legally binding commitment of the mobile network operators,” he said. “More than 1,400 new mobile masts will be built. This is a clear signal that the expansion of mobile communications in previously underserved regions is being driven forward with full force.” In return for making the commitments, the operators have been given improved payment terms for 5G spectrum, with fees now able to be made over annual instalments until 2030. https://bit.ly/2kCKA98
Facebook highlights data portability issues
Facebook has called on regulators and other experts to answer key questions to help it forge its strategy around protecting user privacy while meeting demand for increased data portability, notes Mobile World Live. In a whitepaper, Facebook noted laws such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the US state of California’s Consumer Privacy Act require it to offer tools making it easier for users to transfer their data from one service to another. “But it said complex questions about what and whose data should be transferable; how to share it in a manner which fully protects user privacy; and who is liable for misuse after a transfer remain unanswered. It pointed out user data can be interrelated and a portability request from one user could potentially include information about another person. Such a scenario raises questions about whether consent should be required from all users involved and whether this would restrict portability.” In a blog, Facebook VP and chief privacy officer Erin Egan wrote: “To build portability tools people can trust and use effectively, we should develop clear rules about what kinds of data should be portable and who is responsible for protecting that data as it moves to different providers.” Egan added Facebook wants the views of “privacy experts, policymakers, regulators and other companies around the globe about how data portability should be implemented to maximise the benefits while mitigating the risks”. The white paper is titled ‘Data portability and privacy” and addresses five questions: What is data portability? Which data should be portable? Whose data should be portable? How should we protect privacy while enabling portability? After people’s data is transferred, who is responsible if the data is misused or otherwise improperly protected? See https://bit.ly/2m0E5xg and Facebook white paper at https://bit.ly/2kwX5mP
Bangladesh proposes a single spectrum licence
Bangladesh’s government has proposed simplifying regulations by introducing a single spectrum licence for mobile operators to replace separate permits for each mobile technology, notes Mobile World Live, from an item in the Daily Star. The country’s seven operators currently have separate 2G, 3G and 4G licences expiring in 2026, 2028 and 2033 respectively. “The consolidated licences would expire in 2033, with operators required to pay additional fees for the 2G and 3G licences to be extended to match the expiry data for the 4G licences, which were issued in February 2018, the newspaper said.” The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has also proposed calculating spectrum charges based on an operator’s subscriber base. SM Farhad, secretary general of the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh, welcomed the move and said, “We appreciate the initiative. It will be guiding the future investment in the sector and will be impactful for the next 15 years.” Banglalink, the third largest operator in the country, said in a statement it appreciates the initiative, as it will help simplify documentation and operational activities, but noted the proposal was not really a unified licence but a consolidation of existing ones. It expects Bangladesh to follow the global trend of introducing licences which allow a licensee to provide any service, adding that the new regime must be compatible with future technologies. https://bit.ly/2kC7FJg
Acting director-general appointed at Kenya’s regulator
The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) has appointed Mercy Wanjau as acting director-general to replace Francis Wangusi whose tenure has ended . The board of directors chair, Ngene Gituku, said the appointment has been made to ensure that CA continues to discharge its mandate seamlessly. Wanjau is a commercial lawyer and regulatory and governance professional currently working with the CA as the director of legal services and board secretary. She has been involved in designing and harmonising policy and regulation in the ICT sector at the local, regional and international level for over 15 years. “Given the strategic responsibilities vested on the authority, we are committed to ensure there is no leadership vacuum and that we deliver on our vision of ‘a digitally transformed nation’,” Gituku said. Wanjau consulted with KPMG South Africa, Pricewaterhouse Coopers Kenya and also had a stint in commercial legal practice. She has also served on secondment at the ITU, and is on the board of SOS Children’s Villages. Wangusi took up office in August 2012 and completed two terms as director-general. “There is no doubt Mr Wangusi made his mark in the sector and will remain an important footnote in the history of the ICT industry for a long time to come,” Gituku said. https://bit.ly/2lLykni