Telecoms package materialized in national legislation

Finland is one of few EU member states that have transposed the European Union’s new telecom rules into national legislation. The European Commission has initiated infringement procedures against the other 24 member states.

Regulatory preparations spanning over four years are nearing their end. The Commission published its proposals for the revision of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) in May 2016, and of the European Electronic Communications Code (the so-called Telecoms Package Directive) in September 2016. These were approved by the EU in late 2018 and the deadline for enacting the new rules in national law was last December.

The objective of the Telecoms Directive is to improve the availability of superfast connections, in particular, within the Union, to promote competition in the telecoms industry as well as investments into mobile and fixed networks, and to speed up and increase the adoption of 5G networks.

Plenty of new regulations – also on a national level

At the beginning of 2021, Finland adopted its new Act on Electronic Communications Services which implements the EU directives. The new legislation brought about many changes. Regulations applying to significant market power, for example, were modified with the addition of new elements, such as the commitment procedure for companies, joint investments into very high-capacity networks and responsibilities when removing old copper networks from use or replacing them. These modifications partially respond to needs for supply and availability of fast data connections.

Regulations that are completely new in Finland include changes related to granting of rights for use of radio frequency bands, such as conducting local public telecommunication without a licence, based solely on a radio licence. The revisions of the code in relation to the revalidation and renewal of network licences were successful.

The new code also enhances the protection of users’ rights and raises the speed of the universal service obligation connection from two to five megabits per second. This universal service enhancement will have a significant cost impact, requiring investments upwards of EUR 20 million.

Debates concerning the cyber security of the 5G network

The new Act on Electronic Communications Services is very extensive, with the proposal of the government encompassing 529 pages. The clause that has stirred by far the most debate is that related to the national security of devices in the 5G network: the devices used in the critical components of a network and their possible removal from the network. The code allows for the removal of a network device from the critical components of a public telecom network if there is significant reason to believe that its use would pose a national security or defence risk.

This comprises the national implementation of the EU’s shared Toolbox for Cybersecurity of 5G Networks, which includes strategic and technical measures.

Two clauses have been added to the Finnish code as regards the critical components of a network. The first applies to the Advisory Council on Network Security, which is tasked with comprehensively assessing the fulfilment of national security in telecom networks. The second is a compensation clause, by which telecom companies have the right to receive compensation for devices ordered for removal, under specific circumstances.

The Finnish Transport and Communications Agency is currently preparing a provision on the critical components of a telecom network.

Code supplemented by government decrees

A few supplementary government decrees have also been passed in conjunction with the new code, such as a notice concerning the dismantling of the copper network of a company with significant market power, and a decree concerning the minimum speed of the universal service obligation connection and the advance information to be provided to consumers prior to signing a telecom service contract.

FiCom’s statement (in Finnish) for the Transport and Communications Agency on the proposal of the Government concerning amendments to the Information Society Code can be found here.

Marko Lahtinen, Legal Affairs Manager, FiCom