The new European Commission has moved swiftly to release detailed plans for the ‘digital single market’ (DSM) with an aim “to tear down regulatory walls and finally move from 28 national markets to a single one. A fully functional digital single market could contribute €415 billion a year to our economy and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs,” the EC says. The DSM strategy includes a set of actions to be delivered by the end of 2016 and is built on three ‘pillars’ or themes: better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services across Europe; creating the right conditions and a level playing field for digital networks and innovative services to flourish; and maximising the growth potential of the digital economy.
There are 16 proposals in these three pillars that include: ending unjustified geo-blocking; enacting a modern, more European copyright law; a review of the satellite and cable directive to assess if its scope needs to be enlarged to broadcasters’ online transmissions; and a review of the audiovisual media framework (such as for on-demand services). The Commission is also promising ‘an ambitious overhaul’ of EU telecoms rules, including more effective spectrum coordination and creating incentives for investment in high-speed broadband, and is proposing a ‘European free flow of data initiative’ for the free movement of data in the European Union. Online platforms and intermediaries will also come under scrutiny. While many have welcomed the strategy as ambitious and comprehensive, there is widespread comment that there is a lack of detail on implementation. The scope of the telecoms part of the strategy alone is large and subject to many ongoing battles, such as on roaming, net neutrality, spectrum release and fixed-network competition. Then the recognition that telecoms operators, the audiovisual industry and ‘platform’ players are all now in the same world poses many questions about how a level playing field can be achieved. Documents about the DSM strategy are at: bit.ly/1EeXh9b
The European Commission has also adopted a ‘better regulation agenda’, said to be a comprehensive package of reforms covering the entire policy cycle that will “boost openness and transparency in the EU decision-making process, improve the quality of new laws through better impact assessments of draft legislation and amendments, and promote constant and consistent review of existing EU laws”. See bit.ly/1Ki5ZsP
FCC chair, Tom Wheeler, has circulated proposals to “reboot Lifeline for the internet age” – Lifeline being a programme established in 1985 to help low-income Americans afford access to vital communications. “First we propose to make Lifeline more efficient and impactful by establishing minimum standards of service for voice and broadband, so both beneficiaries and those who pay into the fund can know that they are getting the best value,” said Wheeler, but he noted that only 48% of those earning less than $25,000 have a broadband service at home. “Establishing minimum service levels is not enough to ensure that this programme is serving its core mission. We also propose an overhaul of the way we determine eligibility for Lifeline.” But getting Lifeline reform right won’t be easy, he added.
Data protection officers around the world have begun a review of websites and apps used by children as part of an international project to consider privacy concerns about the type of personal information collected. The UK Information Commissioner’s Office says it will look at 50 websites and apps, looking particularly at what information they collect from children, how that is explained, and what parental permission is sought. The websites and apps will include those specifically targeted at children, as well as those frequently used by children. The same approach will be taken by 28 other privacy enforcement authorities from around the world, with a view to publishing a combined report in the autumn. The ICO will also consider action against any website or app that it finds to be breaking the UK Data Protection Act. More at bit.ly/1F0kTNC
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has released a paper, ‘Evidence-informed regulatory practice – An adaptive response, 2005-15’, which “seeks to illustrate how the ACMA’s approach to evidence-gathering and decision-making has supported the development of informed responses to media and communications pressures”. It has links to dozens of policy and regulatory documents released over the past ten years on areas such as broadband deployment, customer care in telecoms, and broadcasting. See bit.ly/1MhIiya
The latest edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report finds that:
The report also notes that average monthly data usage per smartphone in North America will increase from 2.4 GB today to 14 GB by 2020, and that in advanced markets heavy data users represent 10% of subscribers but generate 55% of data traffic.
With the growing demand for what Ericsson calls ‘machine-type communication’ (MTC) “comes the need to re-think coverage. A key enabler in satisfying these demands is additional spectrum below 1 GHz. This enhances rural geographical coverage and improves deep indoor coverage in urban areas,” the company says. But currently 75% of cellular M2M modules are GSM-only and serve applications that do not require high network throughput, while the ‘connected’ home is mostly served by WiFi and ethernet.
There is also a tool for creating customised graphs and tables using data from the report. Information can be filtered by region, subscription, technology, traffic and device type. Download at bit.ly/1FT3FEw
BEREC, the European body of telecoms regulators, has published a report on consumers’ use of the internet and how much they value net neutrality, the latter based on research in four European countries in which people were asked about attributes for services such as price, speed and traffic management, including whether a package was subject to any restrictions or prioritisations. The results reveal thatthe majority of consumers would notaccept the prioritisation of one type of application if this meant that they lost access to another type, and a majority also feel that equal and unrestricted access to the internet is a human right. The report, ‘How do consumers value net neutrality in an evolving internet marketplace?’, has comment on whether restrictive services could exist in a mainly open market. See bit.ly/1RZmNG7
Legal experts at law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer have been looking at the growing regulatory issues posed by connected and self-driving vehicles, which will generate huge amounts of data and subsequent data protection concerns, while Danielle Herrmann, counsel in Freshfields automotive group, notes: “ Once a car manufacturer provides bundled connectivity services including network access to end-users they can be regarded by the authorities as a telecoms service provider and may therefore be subject to stringent telecoms regulations.” Meanwhile, M2M analyst, Machina Research, has reported that connected cars could cause traffic jams in mobile networks during rush hours in cities.
Andrus Ansip (left), European commissioner leading the digital single market project team, and Günther Oettinger, commissioner for the digital economy and society, at the strategy launch in May.
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