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European telco bodies slam proposed EU gigabit rules

A quartet of major telecoms industry bodies has hit out at Brussels for tweaking a new set of rules designed to facilitate the rollout of gigabit networks to the detriment of operators.

Mary Lennighan

February 1, 2024

2 Min Read

ECTA, ETNO, GIGAEurope and the GSMA on Thursday issued a joint statement to share their "strong concerns" over the terms of Gigabit Infrastructure Act, which are currently being debated by the European Commission, Council, and Parliament.

Their beef is basically that in hammering out the T&Cs of the act, European lawmakers are essentially making it less beneficial for telecoms operators than the existing rules that it is designed to replace.

The European Commission unveiled the Gigabit Infrastructure Act in February last year to replace the 2014 Broadband Cost Reduction Directive. The aim of the act is to cut some of the red tape that can get in the way of network rollout, thereby speeding up the build out of fibre and 5G mobile networks in the European Union and improving the bloc's position on the global stage.

Its key tenets are to simplify and digitalise the process of obtaining permits for network rollout; to improve coordination of civil works between network operators when it comes to installing ducts, masts and so forth, and ensure relevant parties can gain access; and to require all new or majorly renovated buildings have access to fibre.

"Thanks to the new rules, operators will be able to swiftly deploy networks through simplified, digitised and less costly procedures," the Commission explained at the time.

The act is now at the trilogue stage of the legislative process, which means its content is the subject of discussions between the Commission, the European Council and Parliament. And as far as the telcos and those representing them are concerned, all is not going well.

"Key measures that would help speed up network roll-out are now being placed into doubt," the joint statement from the aforementioned industry bodies reads.

Specifically, it refers to the concept of tacit approvals, whereby operators can simply push on with fibre rollout if a landowner fails to respond to a request for a construction permit in a timely fashion.

While tacit approvals are a positive thing for operators, they are naturally controversial. Euractiv covered the debate over tacit approvals in depth last month, indicating that the concept may be watered down or scrapped entirely.

The industry is not at all happy about that. Nor is it amused by suggestions over regulating the price of intra-EU calls and messaging, calling the new regs aggressive and unjustified, given the lack of any evidence of market failure.

"Unless the original spirit of the European Commission proposal is preserved, the EU telecom industry believes that retaining current rules would be less damaging to network roll-out than implementing an ill-conceived Regulation," the industry bodies said. "This risks leaving a damaging legacy on our sector under the remaining EU mandate."

They also made the usual noises about telecoms infrastructure being vital not just to the telcos themselves, but also to the prosperity of the EU as a whole.

But we all know what this is really about: making it easier and cheaper for operators to deploy high-speed networks.

About the Author(s)

Mary Lennighan

Mary has been following developments in the telecoms industry for more than 20 years. She is currently a freelance journalist, having stepped down as editor of Total Telecom in late 2017; her career history also includes three years at CIT Publications (now part of Telegeography) and a stint at Reuters. Mary's key area of focus is on the business of telecoms, looking at operator strategy and financial performance, as well as regulatory developments, spectrum allocation and the like. She holds a Bachelor's degree in modern languages and an MA in Italian language and literature.

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