Report: EC plans to include OTT messaging services in updated telecoms regulations

European Commission
EC competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager

European Commission (EC) documents revealed that the body is preparing to include over-the-top messaging services including WhatsApp and Skype in updated telecoms regulations.

The commission is readying the inclusion of OTT services in new regulations that will first be outlined in September before being adopted as part of a new European Union (EU) privacy law that is expected to be implemented by the year-end, the Financial Times reported.

Plans to include OTT messaging services from companies including Facebook and Microsoft were found in internal EC documents viewed by the FT, it stated.

At the heart of the plan is ensuring security agencies have access to data collated by OTT service providers. Another element is the way that such companies use that data to turn a profit, the FT said.

The newspaper noted that the EC appears to be responding to complaints by leading European operators including Telefonica and Orange regarding the level of regulation currently placed on OTT services. At its simplest level, operators believe OTT players benefit from less regulation than they are subject to, largely because such companies are typically headquartered in the U.S., which in theory means they are not subject to the same level of regulation in the EU as domestic companies.

While the FT mentioned OTT messaging apps, it added that the EC is also preparing to include any online service that enables users to dial a phone number in its new regulations. However, this element will not include online-to-online calls, such as those provided by Skype, the FT noted.

The plans that the EC is expected to reveal next month would form part of a broader EU reform of telecoms regulations designed to replace current member-state regulations with common, region wide, rules, the FT noted.

The newspaper added that several months of negotiations between EU member states are likely to follow the publication of the proposals before the new regulations are finalised.

For more:
- see this Financial Times report (subscription required)

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