Operator chiefs urge European Council to reform telecoms regulation

European Union telecoms regulations need urgent reforms to encourage operators to invest in the next generation networks required to meet the goal of achieving a Digital Single Market, the CEOs of 11 major operators said.

In an open letter to Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, the heads of KPN, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Portugal Telecom, Proximus, Swisscom, Telefónica, Telekom Austria Group, Telecom Italia, Telenor and TeliaSonera said that European policy should encourage operators to invest and innovate, and that regulation is the "single most important driver" of the region's digital industry.

The European Council is comprised of all leaders of European Union member states, who typically meet four times a year to set out the EU's general political direction and priorities, and to discuss issues that cannot be resolved through lower-level government cooperation.

Operator CEOs issued their rallying call ahead of a Jun. 25 meeting of the Council.

In their letter, the telecoms chiefs called for "urgent reforms to remove regulatory barriers to more investment in digital infrastructure", noting that the region has a "once-in-a-generation opportunity" to digitise traditional industries, and is standing "on the edge of a digital investment and infrastructure revolution" that operators are ready to turn into a reality.

While noting that the Digital Single Market strategy "includes positive initiatives in this regard," the operator chiefs called on the Council "to express support for a pro-investment policy approach that translates into fast and concrete actions," noting that "robust infrastructures are the backbone of the digital economy."

The CEOs called for political commitments covering four key areas: ensuring new regulations do not hinder innovation and investment; initiating fast-track reforms of regulations covering access, spectrum management and "asymmetries between traditional e-communication providers and internet players"; a reduction in regulatory burdens to boost high speed network investment; and providing a "future proof common framework for all digital services" that accounts for changes in consumers' habits and new positions of power.

The open letter suggests that Europe's major operators took note of the words of Neelie Kroes, the former European Commission vice president responsible for the Digital Agenda, who said she sometimes thought the telecoms industry "is its own worst enemy" as she left office in 2014.

At the time, Kroes also noted that "regulate my rival" was no longer a viable message for operators to give, and that they should instead focus on being adaptable and supporting the goals of a telecoms single market.

For more:
- see the CEOs' open letter
- view this EU explanation of the European Council

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