Friday, 18 December 2009

EU Telecoms Reform

Today marks the entry into force of the EU Telecoms Reform which member states have until June 2011 to transpose into national legislation.

Aside from the fact it will establish another unaccountable supranational regulator:
Establishment of the European Body of Telecoms Regulators BEREC (spring 2010) – Note that a decision on the definitive seat of BEREC will require agreement between the governments of all 27 Member States;'s another example of a potential conflict between UK and EU law.

Currently being steered through Parliament is the Digital Economy Bill, which contains controversial measures that allow draconian internet cut-off provisions without the need for a Judge - and, as usual with this Government, its wide-ranging scope also allows these measures to be used for more than its original purpose of copyright-infringement.

However, the EU Telecoms Reform contains this (my emphasis in bold): explicitly state that any measures taken by Member States regarding access to or use of services and applications through telecoms networks must respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens, as they are guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and in general principles of EU law. Such measures must also be appropriate, proportionate and necessary within a democratic society. In particular, they must respect the presumption of innocence and the right to privacy. With regard to any measures of Member States taken on their Internet access (e.g. to fight child pornography or other illegal activities), citizens in the EU are entitled to a prior fair and impartial procedure, including the right to be heard, and they have a right to an effective and timely judicial review.

So is the Digital Economy Bill compatible? Commissioner Viviane Reding's views on similar Spanish proposals suggests not:
Spanish measures that would allow for the cutting off of internet access without a prior fair and impartial procedure in front of a judge is certain to run into conflict with European law.

Are the Government aware of this? Have they consulted the EU (their track record suggests not)? The Lords will probably water this down a great deal but even so this looks like another waste of time in the making.

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