TELECOMS UNIVERSAL SERVICE AND USERS'
Draft Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on universal service and users' rights relating to electronic communications networks and services.
||Article 95 EC; co-decision; qualified majority voting
||Trade and Industry |
|Basis of consideration:
||Minister's letter of 22 June and SEM of 25 June 2001
|Previous Committee Report:
||HC 23-xxix (1999-2000), paragraph 16 (15 November 2000)
|Discussed in Council:
||28 June 2001 Transport and Telecommunications Council
||Cleared, but further information requested
45.1 The aim of this proposal is to revise, consolidate
and update existing legislation on universal service and users'
rights in relation to electronic communications networks, including
measures for compensating service providers, without distorting
45.2 Our predecessors left it uncleared on 15
November 2000 and asked the Minister to provide a later text if
the one considered then was amended substantially, before it was
put to Council with a view to reaching agreement on a Common Position.
They also asked to be kept informed of progress, and in a letter
dated 27 March 2001 the then Minister for Small Business and E-Commerce
(Ms Patricia Hewitt) stated that the Council Working Group had
completed one read-through. She said that progress had been limited
and no substantive consideration of the proposal was expected
before the Transport and Telecommunications Council on 27-28 June.
The Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum (SEM)
45.3 The Minister for e-Commerce and Competitiveness
(Mr Douglas Alexander) says in his Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum
of 25 June that the European Parliament (EP) gave the proposal
its first reading on 13 June and the Swedish Presidency subsequently
indicated that it aimed to reach a Common Position on the proposal
at the 27-28 June Transport and Telecommunications Council. According
to its press release, the Council reached political agreement
on a Common Position at that meeting.
45.4 The Minister recalls that the Government
did not point to any particular difficulties with the text in
its Explanatory Memorandum of 10 October 2000 and no new concerns
had arisen in the Working Group. He says that, in particular Member
States are agreed that:
" the time
is not right for increasing the level of universal service, in
particular to high-bandwidth services, but that the situation
needs to be kept under review;
" the Commission's proposals on retail-tariff
regulation are too narrow and an approach to retail regulation
modelled on that in the proposed Access Directive
giving national regulatory authorities broad discretion
to impose appropriate obligations where competition is not effective
would be more forward-looking; and
" further legal certainty is required
on Member States' ability to impose must-carry obligations on
providers of electronic-communications networks, with compensation
for such obligations left to Member States."
45.5 In a letter dated 22 June, the Minister
notified us of his intention to support the Common Position at
the Council. The proposal forms one element of the 1999 Communications
Review, the timely delivery of which, as part of the eEurope Action
Plan, would, he said, facilitate the growth of e-commerce by significantly
reducing the costs of internet access.
Regulatory Impact Assessment
45.6 Implementation of the proposal is envisaged
through the legislation foreseen in the Government's December
2000 White Paper, A new future for communications (Cm 5010).
An initial Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) of the proposals
contained in the White Paper, which include those expected to
be required by this proposed Directive, is attached to the SEM.
It covers the range of the likely costs and benefits and invites
views from consumers and industry on quantifying those costs and
benefits. The Minister promises a full RIA when detailed plans
to implement the proposals in the White Paper have been developed.
He adds that the Government has convened an expert group from
the government departments and regulatory authorities involved
to address the impact, in the broadest possible sense, of regulation
across the markets affected by these proposals.
45.7 We thank the Minister for providing us
with this information and for informing us of his intention to
support the Common Position. We accept his reasons for doing so
and ask him to send us the Common Position text, with his comments
on whether the Government would prefer to have seen any aspects
of it drafted differently.
45.8 We now clear this document.
74 (21560) 10960/00; see HC 28-ix (2000-01), paragraph
7 (21 March 2001). Back