EU parliament backs greater rights for telecoms, internet users
Strasbourg — The European parliament approved Tuesday a major overhaul of EU telecoms law aimed at boosting the rights of European mobile phone and Internet users and protection against access restrictions.
The move, after months of bargaining, was eventually approved by a broad majority.
It unblocks a package of reforms due to be implemented in the next 18 months to "enhance consumer rights, safeguard Internet freedom, protect data, boost competition and modernise radio spectrum use," according to the parliament.
"The EU telecoms reform will bring more competition to Europe’s telecoms markets, better and cheaper fixed, mobile and Internet services and faster Internet connections for all Europeans," said EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding, welcoming the news.
"A true single market for Europe’s telecoms operators and consumers is now within reach," she added
Under the bill, authorities would no longer be able to cut off Internet services to users without providing evidence of illegal downloading or other activity.
In cases deemed urgent enough to require immediate action, the procedures must be in line with Europe’s human rights rules.
The draft law would also boost privacy and consumer rights, make it easier for customers to switch telecoms providers and increase competition for Internet and phone services.
When changing providers, customers will have the right to keep their old phone number.
The new rules also make it obligatory to obtain users’ consent before installing Internet "cookies" that log websites viewed.
An earlier bill had been rejected by the parliament amid uproar over a draft French anti-piracy law that had suggested that Internet connections of users of peer-to-peer services could be cut without the prior intervention of judicial authorities.
The revised deal stresses that "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."
Christian Engstrom, MEP with the Swedish Pirate Party which strives to reform copyright law, said the compromise legislation "is far from perfect but it does represent a step in the right direction."
He added: "It sends a clear message to Nicolas Sarkozy, Peter Mandelson and others that draconian copyright enforcement measures will not be allowed to override Internet users’ fundamental rights in the EU."
The new rules will also require dominant telecoms companies to separate their networks from their other businesses while improving competition and establishing a European body of national regulators with greater powers to punish anti-competitive behaviour and so bring down prices.