Is the European Electronic Communications Code still necessary?
The precursor of the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC), which regulates the European telecommunications sector, was drafted over 20 years ago. Since then, the regulation has been reformed twice – most recently in 2018. The code is a set of special regulations for the communications sector with the primary aim of creating a single internal market for the communications sector in Europe.
Over two decades, the communications market has been transformed almost beyond recognition. Fixed networks and mobile network technologies have developed significantly, and traditional operators have come up against new global competitors offering new communications services.
Increased competition, reforms and the substantial investments required by network technologies have exerted unprecedented challenges on traditional telecommunications companies. New regulations have come in, and much more is to follow on topics such as cyber security, accessibility, copyright, consumer protection, data protection and net neutrality. Various obligations regarding monitoring, blocking and removing content have been imposed on telecommunications companies.
The EECC is a product of its time
The EECC was largely created to regulate fixed network infrastructure. It was intended to facilitate competition for communications networks and services, thereby increasing the availability of services and the range of choices for users. This basic objective continues to underpin the EECC, although some reforms have been implemented over the years, including introducing network investment incentives.
The EECC is very much a product of its time. The world has changed a great deal – and the communications market has changed with it. The majority of the EECC no longer meets the needs of today’s communications market, let alone tomorrow’s. Nowadays, there is a very large volume of new and general regulations, and affordable services and communications networks based on various technologies are within reach of every household, so we could say that the EECC has reached its goal and fulfilled its objective. It is justified to ask whether detailed and burdensome regulations such as the EECC are necessary.
EECC should be completely reassessed
The EECC needs to be re-evaluated critically from scratch. Now is a great time to re-evaluate the EECC, as the European Commission’s proposed Gigabit Infrastructure Act and consultation on the future of the electronic communications sector and its infrastructure are underway.
Legislation must move with the times and promote European competitiveness, not obstruct it. Unnecessary, overlapping regulation must be removed, and only essential areas, such as frequencies, should be regulated. Detailed regulation should trend towards more general regulation, such as competition and consumer law. Regulation should serve as an enabler and aim more towards investment and growth.